Trust in Catholic Church plummets amid abuse scandal

Trust in the Catholic Church has taken a heavy blow, a poll released Wednesday revealed, with barely one in six Germans saying they had confidence in the Church in the wake of the child sex abuse scandal.

Trust in Catholic Church plummets amid abuse scandal
Photo: DPA

German-born Pope Benedict XVI has also suffered a crippling blow to his authority, with fewer than one in four people saying they trusted him personally, the poll published by Stern news magazine found.

Just 17 percent said they trusted the Church and 24 percent the Pope. That compares with 29 percent and 38 percent respectively in a similar poll taken at the end of January.

The poll taken by the Forsa surveying firm found that, even among Catholics, only a minority trusted either the Church or the Pope. Just 39 percent had confidence in the Pope, down from 62 percent at the end of January, while 34 percent trusted the Church, down from 56 percent.

Among non-denominational Germans, just 5 percent said they trusted the Church.

By comparison, the Protestant Church’s standing has barely been affected by the recent resignation of its leader Margot Käßmann, who was caught driving drunk. Some 42 percent of Germans said they had faith in Church compared with 44 percent at the end of January.

Among Protestants, trust was at 65 percent, actually a slight rise on the 64 percent registered six weeks ago.

The poll came as the Greens called the government’s planned “round table” on child sex abuse inadequate.

“With sex abuse cases, it’s about serious criminal acts, which aren’t in the least bit suited to a round table,” the party’s parliamentary leader Renate Künast told news magazine Der Spiegel.

In recent weeks, hundreds of alleged victims have come forward with claims of child abuse, predominantly in the Catholic Church but also in some other organisations.

Chancellor Angela Merkel was avoiding “a genuinely critical debate,” Künast said, adding that the round table was unlikely to come up with concrete proposals.

The federal cabinet made arrangements Wednesday to establish the round table, with the committee holding its first meeting on April 23. It appointed former Social Democrats politician Christine Bergmann as an independent commissioner to head the roundtable.

Committee members will likely include Family Minister Kristina Schröder, representatives of the Education Ministry, Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, a well as abuse victims, experts and relevant associations.

But the Greens maintain that an independent commission of the German parliament is needed to overhaul the system of dealing with child sex abuse. This should include a compensation fund and money set aside for victims’ therapy, Der Spiegel reported.

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Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

The German government says it is in talks over further compensation for victims of the attack on the Munich Olympics, as the 50th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

Ahead of the commemoration in September, relatives of the Israelis killed have indicated they are unhappy with what Germany is offering.

“Conversations based on trust are taking place with representatives of the victims’ families,” a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP when asked about the negotiations.

He did not specify who would benefit or how much money had been earmarked, saying only that any package would “again” be financed by the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

On September 5th, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists  held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Horst Ossingert

The spokeswoman for the victims’ families, Ankie Spitzer, told the German media group RND that the amount currently on the table was “insulting” and threatened a boycott of this year’s commemorations.

She said Berlin was offering a total of €10 million including around €4.5 million already provided in compensation between 1972 and 2002 — an amount she said did not correspond to international standards. 

“We are angry and disappointed,” said Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer who was killed in the attack. “We never wanted to talk publicly about money but now we are forced to.”

RND reported that the German and Israeli governments would like to see an accord by August 15th.

The interior ministry spokesman said that beyond compensation, Germany intended to use the anniversary for fresh “historical appraisal, remembrance and recognition”.

He said this would include the formation of a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively” establish what happened “from the perspective of the year 2022”.

This would lead to “an offer of further acts of acknowledgement of the relatives of the victims of the attack” and the “grave consequences” they suffered.