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Catholic Church begins abuse probes in Germany

Discussion in 'International Forum' started by PELE, Mar 10, 2010.

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    PELE JF-Expert Member

    Mar 10, 2010
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    Catholic Church begins abuse probes in Germany

    Inquiries to consider whether Pope or his brother knew of allegations

    Last Updated: Wednesday, March 10, 2010 | 12:45 PM ET Comments36Recommend22

    The Associated Press

    Catholic authorities in Germany have announced two major abuse investigations — one into the renowned choir once led by Pope Benedict XVI's brother and another into what everyone, including the Pope, knew about the sexual and physical abuse of students.

    The Roman Catholic diocese of Regensburg in southern Germany said it appointed an independent investigator to examine the allegations of physical and sexual abuse that have engulfed the prestigious Regensburger Domspatzen boys choir, which was led by the Rev. Georg Ratzinger, the Pope's older brother, from 1964 until 1994. So far, the sexual abuse allegations predate Ratzinger's term.

    Diocese spokesman Jacob Schoetz said that Nuremberg lawyer Andreas Scheulen was named to lead the inquiry and all charges will be investigated thoroughly.
    "The independent lawyer will thoroughly go through all existing legal papers, all court decisions and any information available," Schoetz said. "We expect to publish first results within the next two weeks."

    In addition, the German Bishop's Conference said it would look into wider-ranging allegations across the country after more than 170 students at Catholic schools have said they were sexually or physically abused decades ago.

    That investigation will also examine allegations of sexual abuse at the choir and look into what, if anything, Pope Benedict XVI himself knew in his previous position as the archbishop of Munich, prelate Karl Juesten told The Associated Press.
    "We do not know if the Pope knew about the abuse cases at the time," Juesten said. "However, we assume that this is not the case."
    Munich Archbishop Reinhard Marx will be "certainly investigating these questions," he said.
    Pope's brother apologizes to victims

    Juesten, the liaison between Roman Catholic bishops and the German government, also praised Ratzinger, the Pope's brother, for apologizing to victims on Tuesday for doing nothing decades ago to stop the beating of students at an elementary school in Germany.

    Reached by telephone Wednesday, Ratzinger said he had no further comment on the matter.
    Ratzinger had first said he was unaware of any abuse, and Juesten said that others should follow the 86-year-old Ratzinger's lead in coming clean.
    "The other perpetrators should follow the example set by Mr. Ratzinger and apologize to the victims for the abuse they have committed," he said.
    However, the Pope's brother has said he was unaware of allegations of sexual abuse at his own choir — incidents alleged to have occurred before Ratzinger led the choir.

    The Roman Catholic Church has been hit by years of abuse claims in Canada, the United States, Ireland, Australia and other countries. Yet the German abuse allegations are particularly sensitive because Germany is the Pope's homeland and because the scandals involve the prestigious choir led by his brother for 30 years.
    Juesten said it was not known if Pope Benedict, who served as archbishop of Munich and Freising from 1977 to 1982, was aware of any of the child abuse cases that took place then at Catholic schools and other institutions. The Domspatzen choir reported to the Regensburg diocese and not to the archbishop of Munich.

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    Darwin JF-Expert Member

    Mar 12, 2010
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    Shame and Fear

    Inside Germany's Catholic Sexual Abuse Scandal

    The Catholic Church in Germany has been shaken in recent days by revelations of a series of sexual abuse cases. Close to 100 priests and members of the laity have been suspected of abuse in recent years. After years of suppression, the wall of silence appears to be crumbling. By SPIEGEL Staff.
    This is what it looks like, the document of a conspiracy: 24 pages, with appendix, in Latin, published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican. A "norma interna," or confidential set of guidelines for all bishops, who were required to keep it a secret for all eternity, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

    The guidelines, issued in the year of our Lord 1962, address a sensitive subject: sex in the confessional. The Vatican doesn't put it quite that directly, preferring to use more guarded terminology to describe what happens when a priest leads a member of his flock astray before, during or after the confession -- in other words, when he provokes a penitent "toward impure and obscene matters" through "words or signs or nods of the head (or) by touch."


    7 Photos
    Photo Gallery: The Dark Side of the Church

    According to the instructions from Rome, the bishops were to deal very firmly with each individual case -- so firmly, in fact, that everything would remain within the confines of the Holy Church. After all, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith -- formerly known as the Inquisition -- has centuries of experience in conducting internal investigations. The Vatican has always filled all the positions in such investigations -- prosecutors, defendants, judges -- from within its own ranks, while the investigation files have been kept in the secret archives of the Roman Curia.
    Claim to Moral Authority
    On the surface, the Vatican's objective is to protect the sacrament of the confession. In reality, however, it is trying to uphold the Catholic Church's claim to being a superior moral authority.
    Nothing can be allowed to besmirch this authority: not the sexual abuse of children and adolescents, committed by thousands of Catholic priests worldwide; not the secret relationships between pastor and their housekeepers; not the covering-up of priests' children; and not the love affairs between gay clerics. They are all cases of a double standard that arose because it is difficult for people -- even priests -- to subordinate their human desires to a papal encyclical.
    This code of silence has been upheld for decades, in some cases informally and in some cases by virtue of Vatican directives like the 1962 guideline.
    But now the wall of silence is coming down here in Germany. It started when Berlin's Canisius College, an elite Jesuit high school, recently disclosed the sordid past of a number of members of the order, who had abused students at the school in the 1970s and 1980s. After that, new victims began coming forward on a daily basis. By last Friday, at least 40 of them had accused three Jesuit priests of molesting children and adolescents, first in Berlin and later at the St. Ansgar School in Hamburg, the St. Blasien College in the Black Forest and in several parishes in the northern German state of Lower Saxony.
    Tip of the Iceberg
    As shocking as the revelations were, they are merely "the tip of the iceberg," says the current director of Canisius College, Father Klaus Mertes, who made public the sexual abuse of students.
    For decades, German bishops tried to look the other way when their pastors engaged in sexual abuse, as well as to downplay the problem by characterizing it as isolated incidents. Now they are finally revealing their own figures, though hesitantly. According to a SPIEGEL survey of Germany's 27 dioceses conducted last week, at least 94 priests and members of the laity in Germany are suspected or have been suspected of abusing countless children and adolescents since 1995. A total of 24 of the 27 dioceses responded to SPIEGEL's questions.
    A group called the Round Table for Care in Children's Homes recently published an interim report which contains dramatic findings. The report deals with the wrongs committed since the 1950s against children and adolescents living in homes, almost half of which were run by the Catholic Church.
    According to the report, more than 150 victims of sexual abuse have come forward with their stories in recent months. One of them is a woman who, as a 15-year-old girl, had to sit in the confessional and watch a priest masturbate. When she tried to get away from him, she was beaten by the nuns who ran the home. There has never been a systematic investigation into how many Catholic schools, homes and rectories were the scenes of abuse, even when there was evidence in the files. The Round Table group plans to present its final report at the end of the year.
    Protecting Offenders, Ignoring Victims
    A tremor is currently passing through the Catholic Church in Germany. It could be merely the beginning of an earthquake of proportions which have so far only been seen in the American and Irish Church. Tens of thousands of abuse cases were brought to light in both countries. Could Germany be next?
    The scandal is just beginning, and yet it has already made a deep impression: on parents, who expect Catholic schools to provide their children with moral guidance; on the victims, who are now confronting their dark past after living with it half their lives; and on the faithful, who now regard their church with dismay. Their shock stems not only from the fact that there are pedophiles in the church, as there are elsewhere in society. It also comes from the fact that the church systematically protected the perpetrators and ignored the victims, and that it repressed and covered up sexual abuse in its own ranks for decades -- and in doing so enabled pedophile priests to leave behind a trail of emotional devastation throughout Germany.
    To this day, the chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, Archbishop of Freiburg Robert Zollitsch, has not offered any convincing words of apology or emphatic gestures of redress to the victims of the church's double standard. After vacillating for days, he finally decided not to grant SPIEGEL an interview. The official Church prefers not to allow the suffering of its victims to become a major issue, because it doesn't fit into the Church's hypocritical worldview.
    The Bishops' Conference will not even address the sex scandals until Feb. 22. "The revelations show a dark side of the church that scares me," says the Jesuit Hans Langendörfer, secretary of the Bishops' Conference. "We expressly want an investigation."
    Repressed Morality
    Nevertheless, the clerics are still a long way from any sort of true self-criticism or far-reaching analysis, because it would require them to examine the Church's repressed sexual morality that is dictated from above. It would require an honest discussion about celibacy and its consequences, particularly when it comes to the Church's recruitment practices. In a church that is having trouble attracting men to the priesthood, particularly as a result of the ban on marriage, the number of good candidates has become so small that too many inappropriate candidates get admitted.
    Does this mean that the church will continue to pursue its policy of hemming and hawing, and of avoiding the important questions, as it has already done so often? It will be difficult to carry on like that, now that the Jesuits' offensive has put the entire clergy under pressure. The order intends to systematically investigate abuse in its own ranks, as painful as that effort will be and even if the growing number of revelations by former students plunge it into what is likely to be the deepest crisis in Jesuit history. Father Stefan Dartmann, the head of the Jesuit order of Germany, says that an "immense tragedy is now becoming apparent."
    His fears are justified, as more and more former students come forward. In addition to the Canisius College and the schools in St. Ansgar and St. Blasien, there have now been revelations of abuse at the Jesuits' Aloisius College in Bonn's Bad Godesberg neighborhood, where entire generations of children of politicians and diplomats went to school.

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    PELE JF-Expert Member

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    More clerical sex abuse dismays Pope

    German church leaders met with pontiff on new prevention measures

    Last Updated: Friday, March 12, 2010 | 8:26 PM ET Comments129Recommend36

    The Associated Press

    Germany's top bishop briefed the Pope on the spiralling cases of clerical sex abuse in the pontiff's native Germany on Friday, and said Benedict encouraged him to pursue the truth and assist the victims.
    Archbishop Robert Zollitsch said Friday the Pope was "greatly dismayed" and "deeply moved" as he was being briefed on the scandal during his 45-minute private audience in the Vatican.
    Zollitsch said he briefed the Pope in particular on the measures being taken to confront the scandal.
    "The Holy Father was very satisfied with our decisions," Zollitsch told a news conference after the meeting.

    At least 170 former students from Catholic schools in Germany have come forward recently with claims of physical and sexual abuse, including at an all-boys choir once led by the Pope's brother.
    Abuse suspect returned to work
    Pope Benedict XVI's former German diocese said Friday it made a mistake when the pontiff was archbishop in allowing a priest suspected to have abused a child to return to pastoral work. However, it said Benedict wasn't involved in the decision.
    The details came hours after Germany's top bishop briefed Pope Benedict XVI on the spiralling cases of clerical sex abuse in the pontiff's native Germany and said the pope encouraged him to pursue the truth and assist the victims.
    In Germany, the Munich archdiocese said the chaplain was sent to Munich in 1980 for therapy. The diocese says it was made aware of the "serious errors" by the Munich-based daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung which first reported on the case for its Saturday edition.
    The man, identified only as H., was allowed to stay in a vicarage while undergoing therapy - a decision in which then-Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger was involved, the statement said.
    It said officials believe it was known the therapy was related to suspected "sexual relations with boys."
    However, it says a lower-ranking official - Vicar General Gerhard Gruber - then allowed him to help in pastoral work in Munich, a decision for which he takes "full responsibility."
    The Vatican press office noted in a brief statement Friday evening that Gruber was assuming "full responsibility" for the transfer of the priest, after therapy, to pastoral duties. Without further comment, the statement included a link to the Munich archdiocese's statement in German.
    The archdiocese says there were no accusations against the chaplain relating to his February 1980 to August 1982 spell in Munich. He then moved to nearby Grafing, but was suspended in early 1985 following accusations of sexual abuse - which the archdiocese didn't detail. The following year, he was convicted of sexually abusing minors.
    The conviction resulted in an 18-month suspended prison sentence and a fine of 4,000 marks, the archdiocese said.
    Ratzinger was archbishop of Munich and Freising from 1977 to early 1982.
    - Associated Press

    More allegations emerge

    Zollitsch also said he briefed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on measures implemented in Germany, and that the Vatican is considering a set of universal norms to deal with cases of clerical sex abuse.
    "I'm grateful for the encouragement he [Benedict] gave me to continue carrying out our measures in a decisive and courageous way," he said.
    The Pope hasn't commented on the German scandal himself. But he decried the sexual abuse of children as a "heinous crime" after he summoned Irish bishops to Rome last month to discuss the even more widespread scandal in the Irish church.
    In addition to the cases in Germany and Ireland, three retired priests at a Catholic school in Austria were relieved of their clerical duties this week after allegations of physical and sexual abuse emerged.
    Two other priests in Austria have resigned amid similar allegations. In the Netherlands, Catholic bishops announced an independent inquiry into more than 200 allegations of sexual abuse of children by priests at church schools and apologized to victims.
    But of all the European scandals, the German abuse allegations are particularly sensitive because Germany is the Pope's homeland, where he served as archbishop of Munich from 1977 to 1982, and because the scandals involve the prestigious choir that was led by his brother, Georg Ratzinger, from 1964 until 1994.

    Church hasn't done enough to explain allegations: poll

    Zollitsch said he and Benedict did not discuss the allegations surrounding the pontiff's brother. Ratzinger has repeatedly said the sexual abuse allegations date from before his tenure as choir director and that he never heard of them, although he acknowledged slapping pupils as punishment.
    According to a poll conducted by the Emnid institute for N24 television, a full 86 per cent of Germans contend the Roman Catholic Church has failed to do enough to explain the allegations of abuse in church-run schools and institutions. Only 10 per cent of the 1,000 people polled on March 10 felt the church was doing enough.
    Also, 68 per cent of those polled say the abuse scandal has raised their criticism of the church's educational abilities, while 28 per cent still trust the church to teach their children.
    Bishop Stephan Ackermann, who has been appointed by the church to handle abuse allegations in Germany, said that he would also follow up on any charges against bishops.
    "Bishops or parishes that are not co-operative will be asked for information," Ackermann said Thursday on ZDF television.