Catholic Church hit by a new child abuse scandal – this time in Germany
THE Catholic Church has become mired down in yet another child abuse scandal – this time in Pope Ratzinger’s native Germany.
The widening public scandal began last month with allegations that three priests at the elite Canisius Jesuit high school in Berlin had sexually abused students in the 1970s and ’80s.
In the midst of a steadily growing uproar over the handling of that case, German magazine Der Spiegel published an article last weekend that said nearly 100 clerics and laypeople had been suspected of abusing children and teenagers nationwide since 1995.
According to this report, the rector of Aloisiuskolleg, a high school in Bad Godesberg – an affluent neighbourhood in the former capital of Bonn where diplomats and leading politicians lived – this week resigned over accusations that he was aware of sexual misconduct by teachers at the school.
Many of the cases now coming to light are unlikely to be prosecuted because the statute of limitations requires crimes to be reported within 10 years of the victim’s 18th birthday.
But the revelations have driven an open debate on the church, its policies for dealing with abuse cases – or, critics say, covering them up – and even the vows of celibacy taken by priests.
At a press conference earlier this month, Stefan Dartmann, head of the Jesuit Order in Germany, said:
I am ashamed that nothing was done at the time. I also apologize that those responsible at the order at the time did not … react the way it would have been necessary.
Dartmann conceded that the Jesuit order of Germany had had evidence of the sexual abuse cases since 1981, but had never informed parents, students or authorities.
Germany is home to about 25.2 million Catholics, according to the German Bishops Conference, but that number has fallen by more than 3 million since German reunification in 1990.
The abuse of children by members of the clergy remains one of the most difficult issues for the church. In December the Vatican accepted the resignations of several Irish bishops after a report by the Irish government detailed the physical, sexual and emotional abuse of children by Catholic priests in church-run residential schools.
On Monday at the Vatican, Pope Benedict told members of the Pontifical Council for the Family that he condemned the abuse of children by members of the clergy, but he has not commented directly on the situation in Germany.