There had been Munich, Cologne… It’s a new report on the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse conviction that has just been presented. This time it concerns the diocese of Münster, in the west of Germany. A report of almost 600 pages, the result of almost three years of work. †The result of our investigation is frightening“, write the five historians and anthropologists, four men and one woman, authors of the report. At the request and financed by the Diocese of Münster, they searched the archives, questioned witnesses… And came to this terrible conclusion: on Between 1945 and By 2020, at least six hundred and ten children will be victims of sexual abuse in this diocese.
Thousands of victims
These are boys and girls who have served at Mass or attended youth groups organized by the Church. It is estimated that nearly 6,000 sexual abuse is committed for these victims alone. It ranges from obscene commentary to rape. A figure of the number of victims certainly even underestimated. †The number of 610 people involved is only the clear figure of certain cases. Taking into account similar studies, we estimate that this figure is eight to ten times higher, which corresponds to about five to six girls and boys involved“explains one of the authors, Nathalie Powroznik. Nearly two hundred perpetrators of violence have been identified, the vast majority of them priests.
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An element that the report’s director and his colleagues have been trying to understand, decipher. †The Church describes itself as a sacred institution, the priest too is integrated in this context through the theology of the sacraments.” stated Thomas Großbölting on the sidelines of the report’s presentation on German public radio Deutschlandfunk.
†The priest is considered a holy man with the sacrament. This clearly distinguishes him from the laymen he is confronted with. On the one hand, it is this pastoral power base that allows the abuser of the church to react aggressively to the child. And on the other hand, the ideology, the image the Church has of itself, motivates a great deal of hypocrisy”† And Thomas Großbölting to explain, that “when the institution is sacred, I have an even greater motivation than in other contexts to protect this institution from any damage to its reputation”†
The authors of the report began their work in October 2019
†suffocation” and “kept silence†
This silence is precisely the second problem, besides that of the attacks, that is raised in the report. The number of accused priests represents “only 4%” of the priests who practiced throughout the period. But, and this is what the report’s authors emphasize: They often committed their crimes with the knowledge of other members of the Church, who never moved. A large proportion of the violent perpetrators would never have had criminal consequences. Often the diocese simply sent the accused to another parish.
Bishops are even said to have ignored the criminal procedures prescribed by Church law. The first correctly reported case was in 2007. The authors of the report have their say”suffocation“, from “kept silence” in light of practices described as “generalized†
Historical and non-legal perspective
This report is not the first in the Catholic Church. On the other hand, it is the first produced by male and female historians through training. The other reports, in Cologne, in Munich, were more legal, which is not the case here. †We have benefited greatly from the legal reports and it is worth looking at past crimes, especially in the context of criminal law.” furthermore, the report director Thomas Großbölting relies on Deutschlandfunk. †However, I think that as historians we have been able to shed more light on many points that have already been covered in previous reports, such as the conditions imposed by the Catholic Church such as celibacy, the structure of authority, sexual morality … Because we have looked to them from a different professional context.”
In 2020, Cardinal Rainer Woelki, Archbishop of Cologne, had buried a report on sexual abuse cases in his diocese that he ordered in 2018, before another report was presented in 2021
Thomas Großbölting explains that he and his colleagues have made an effort “how these facts fit into the main contexts of politics, society, but also and especially those of the Catholic Church. What specific pastoral references should be considered? What is the Catholic Church’s image of itself? He assures that “from this point of view, the Catholic Church of the 1950s is very different from the Catholic Church of the 2020s. And against this background, in my opinion, we were able to define very precisely where the Catholic Church creates conditions in which abuse is possible and appearance favored”†
†This study is only a first step, the work for church and society has only just begun.Thomas Großbölting insists again. He is now calling on elected officials to act, to enforce more work within the Church through law, to prevent new abuses and work on the old.”I have the impression that even in the churches certain dignitaries of the clergy are now secretly longing for state authorities, politically, to maybe get more involved, because there we see that we can’t get out of the quagmire on our own.” he said.
The central government in Berlin is already discussing options for an upcoming law. Ensure that the right to investigate cases of sexual assault is enshrined in law. That it no longer depends solely on reports commissioned by the goodwill of the dioceses. But nothing concrete yet.
In Greece, freedom of the press is in danger
Press freedom situation in Greece continues to deteriorate
In the second part of Seen from Germany we take the road to Greece. There is talk of the murder of an unsolved journalist who has been declared closed, a distribution monopoly, repeated censorship, withholding of information, threats… The latest reports from organizations defending freedom of expression published across the country , are constructive for press freedom. The Greek government has rejected the allegations, accusing Reporters Without Borders, for example, of damaging the country’s image by placing it 108th in the world’s press freedom rankings. But the testimonials collected by our correspondent Thomas Jacobi are overwhelming.
Seen from Germany is a weekly radio magazine, presented by Hugo Flotat-Talon and Anne Le Touzé – this week with the collaboration of Peter Hille for the topic on hunting – broadcast on Wednesdays and Sundays at 5.30 pm GMT, and also available as a podcast. find all songs in the media library, to listen online or download in mp3 format. The podcast is also available on some podcast platforms.