German Catholic Church to confess to decades of child abuse

Germany’s Catholic Church was Tuesday due to confess to thousands of cases of sexual assault against children, but victims blasted it for failing to reveal the true scale of the abuse and end decades of impunity.

The Church will release a damning report showing that in Germany alone, almost 3,700 minors were assaulted between 1946 and 2014.

The report’s authors say the real figure was likely four times higher.

Commissioned by the German Bishops’ Conference, it is the latest in a series of reports on sexual crimes and cover-ups worldwide spanning decades that has shaken the Catholic Church.

Victims said it falls short of what is needed to flush out perpetrators.

They urged the Church to bring in independent experts for a thorough audit, adding that victims should be offered compensation.

“The system of abuse, transfers (of offending priests) and cover-ups cannot be mapped out” by a study that had access only to available personnel documents, said the victims’ association Eckiger Tisch.

“We are not given names of perpetrators. There are no names given of the responsible bishops who have perfected the system of covering up sexual attacks over decades.”

– ‘Decades of cover-ups’ –

Justice Minister Katarina Barley urged the Church to “take responsibility for decades of concealment, cover-ups and denials” and to work with state prosecutors to bring every known case to justice.

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The independent commissioner for child sex abuse issues, Johannes-Wilhelm Roerig, recommended state authorities step in to clear up the crimes and ensure victims get access to Church files and compensation.

The state “has a duty of care for all children, including those who are in the care of the Church”, he told the Sueddeutsche newspaper.

Details of the report were leaked to the media this month.

The German Bishops’ Conference was due to officially release the research paper at the start of a four-day meeting in the western city of Fulda.

Opening the meeting, conference head Cardinal Reinhard Marx, said: “Our job is to set the tone for a new start.”

– Predator priests –

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

They intimidated their victims into keeping quiet, it said.

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

Researchers from three universities who carried out the survey warned that the true scale of the abuse was far greater, as many documents had been “destroyed or manipulated”.

Predator priests were often transferred to another parish, which was not warned about their criminal history.

Only about one in three were subject to disciplinary hearings by the Church, and most got away with minimal punishment, said Die Zeit weekly. Only 38 percent were prosecuted by civil courts.

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– Systemic abuse –

Pope Francis has found himself embroiled in a global scandal over abuse in the Catholic Church.

Conservative US Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano claimed the pontiff had himself ignored abuse allegations against prominent US cardinal Theodore McCarrick for five years.

Francis has so far refused to respond to the allegations.

He has however announced a Vatican meeting of national Church leaders on the protection of minors, for February 2019.

Joerg Schuh of the Berlin-based Tauwetter centre for victims of sexual abuse told AFP TV that “the Catholic Church has a global problem”.

“I would like the Pope to make it his number one topic, and for his Church to really work on it,” he said.

Major abuse cases in Germany have included a Berlin elite Jesuit school and the world-famous Catholic choir school the Regensburger Domspatzen.

The latter revealed that more than 500 boys there had suffered sexual or physical abuse which one victim likened to “prison, hell or a concentration camp”.

AFP

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