More than 600 abuse victims in German diocese of Münster

At least 600 young people were documented as having been abused by Catholic priests in the German diocese of Münster, but the actual number of victims could be 10 times higher, according to a report.

Felix Genn, Bishop of Münster, at a press conference after the report on abuse was published on Monday June 13th.
Felix Genn, Bishop of Münster, at a press conference after the report on historical abuse was published on Monday June 13th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Guido Kirchner

The diocese has official records on 610 abuse victims, according to the report by the University of Münster – around a third more than indicated by a previous study from 2018.

However, historian Natalie Powroznik, who was involved in the study, said the true number of victims could be much higher with “about 5,000 to 6,000 affected girls and boys” in the diocese.

At least 5,700 individual acts of sexual abuse had been committed by a total of 196 clergymen, including 183 priests, according to the report published on Monday.

Five percent of the clergymen involved were found to be serial offenders with more than 10 victims, and less than 10 percent had faced any legal consequences.

At the peak of the abuse during the 1960s and 1970s, there were on average two cases per week in the diocese, the report said.

Three in four victims were boys, the majority between 10 and 14 years old, with many of the acts committed against altar boys or at children’s and youth camps.

The study reported considerable psychological consequences for the victims reaching into adulthood, including depression and suicidal thoughts, with indications of attempted suicide in 27 cases.

Widespread abuse

The bishop of Münster, Felix Genn, is due to comment in detail on the study on Friday.

The authors accuse Genn, who has been the bishop of Münster since 2009, of failing to take action against abusers.

In an initial response on Monday, Genn said he would “naturally accept responsibility for the mistakes I myself made in dealing with sexual abuse”.

Germany’s Catholic Church has been rocked by a string of reports in recent years that have exposed widespread abuse of children by clergymen.

A study commissioned by the German Bishops’ Conference in 2018 concluded that 1,670 clergymen in the country had committed some form of sexual attack against 3,677 minors between 1946 and 2014.

However, the real number of victims is thought to be much higher.

READ ALSO: Ex-pope Benedict under scrutiny in German child abuse probe

In January, a report into the diocese of Munich and Freising found indications of sexually abusive behaviour in 235 people it investigated, including 173 priests, while there were at least 497 victims.

The report also found former pope Benedict XVI had knowingly failed to take action to stop four priests accused of child sex abuse in in the 1980s, when he was the archbishop of Munich.

Another report published last year exposed the scope of abuse committed by priests in Germany’s top diocese of Cologne.

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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.