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SEXUAL ABUSE

Catholic priests abused thousands in Germany: study

More than 3,600 children were sexually assaulted by Catholic priests in Germany over nearly seven decades, local media reported Wednesday, citing a study commissioned by the German Bishops Conference.

Catholic priests abused thousands in Germany: study
A man walking out of a Catholic church in Bremen. Photo: DPA

The damning report, which Cardinal Reinhard Marx is to present officially on September 25, deals another blow to the Church after clerical child abuse has been uncovered worldwide.

According to the study, 1,670 clergymen in Germany committed some form of 
sexual attack against 3,677 minors between 1946 and 2014, Spiegel Online 
reported. Most of the victims were boys.

More than half were 13 years old or younger at the time of the abuse, the 
study concluded after examining 38,000 documents from 27 German dioceses.

The study also noted that some records had been “destroyed or manipulated”, 
warning therefore that the scale of the abuse may be even greater.

Predator priests were often transferred to another location, with information on their criminal history not provided to the new site.

Only one in three (566 out of 1,670 accused) were subject to disciplinary 
hearings by the Church, and most got away with minimal punishment, said Die 
Zeit weekly, also citing the report. 

Of these, 154 cases ended with no penalty, while 103 closed with a warning. Only 38 percent of the accused were prosecuted by civil courts – on complaints lodged by victims themselves or their families.

Over the last decade, several German Catholic institutions have revealed 
cases of child sexual abuse, including an elite Jesuit school in Berlin which 
admitted to systematic sexual abuse of pupils by two priests in the 1970s and 
1980s.

Last year, a world-famous Catholic choir school in Germany, the Regensburger Domspatzen school, revealed that more than 500 boys there suffered sexual or physical abuse in what victims have likened to “prison, hell or a concentration camp”.

Reaction from the church

Germany's Catholic Church said Wednesday it was “dismayed and ashamed” by decades of child sex abuse by priests, after a report was leaked showing that thousands of minors were assaulted.

“We know the extent of the sexual abuse that has been demonstrated by the study. We are dismayed and ashamed by it,” said Bishop Stephan Ackermann on behalf of the conference.

The aim of the study is to shed light on “this dark side of our Church, for 
the sake of those affected, but also for us ourselves to see the errors and to do everything to prevent them from being repeated.”

“I stress that the study is a measure that we owe not only to the Church 
but first and foremost, to those affected.”

The report deals another blow to the Church after clerical child abuse has 
been uncovered worldwide.

   

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RELIGION

Pope rejects German bishop’s offer to quit over abuse scandal

Pope Francis on Thursday rejected an offer by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, a top German bishop, to resign over the mishandling of sexual abuse and cover-up scandals.

Pope rejects German bishop's offer to quit over abuse scandal
Marx following a service in Haar, Bavaria on Sunday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Matthias Balk

“Continue as you propose (in your pastoral work) but as Archbishop of
Munich and Freising,” the pope wrote to Marx, referring to the position he was offering to vacate.

Marx announced earlier this month that he had offered the pope his
resignation over the church’s “institutional and systemic failure” in handling
child sex abuse scandals.

READ ALSO: German bishop resigns over Catholic Church’s ‘failure’ in abuse scandal

The stunning decision came after the church in Germany, like in many places elsewhere, was shaken by allegations of wide-ranging abuse by clergymen against minors.

In his letter, the pope agreed with Marx in calling the clerical sexual
abuse scandals “a catastrophe” and the way the Catholic Church dealt with them “until recently”.

“The entire Church is in crisis because of the abuse issue” and “the Church
cannot proceed without tackling this crisis. The policy of burying the head in
the sand leads nowhere,” he wrote.

In his original letter to the pope dated May 21st and published on June 4th by his archdiocese, Marx said: “It is important to me to share the responsibility for the catastrophe of the sexual abuse by Church officials over the past decades.”

Investigations and reports had “consistently shown there have been many
personal failures and administrative mistakes but also institutional or
‘systemic’ failure,” added Marx, who was president of the German Bishops’
Conference from 2012 to 2020.

Slamming colleagues who “refuse to believe there is a shared responsibility
in this respect”, he said the Church was at “a dead end”.

Marx — who was never personally accused of abuse or cover up, and who
would have remained a cardinal even if Francis had allowed him to quit as
archbishop — added that he hoped his resignation would offer a new beginning for the Church.

Speaking to journalists, he confirmed the pope had given him permission to
publish the letter and that he would continue in his role until he received a
response to his offer.

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