Leaked Report Reveals Extent of Child Abuses by Catholic Priests in Germany
A new study that was commissioned by the Catholic Church itself revealed that more than 3,600 children in Germany were assaulted by Roman Catholic priests between 1946 and 2014. The report was planned to be published at the end of September but leaked earlier, forcing German clergyman to react fast to the new allegations.
The findings showed that some 1,670 German clergymen committed various forms of sexual abuse. According to the report, most of the victims were boys, more than half of whom were aged 13 or younger. Following the revelations, many Church spokesmen expressed their concern. Bishop Stephan Ackermann, spokesman for the German Bishops’ Conference that commissioned the report, stated he was “dismayed and ashamed” by the findings.
However, statements like this don’t obscure the fact that only 38% of the alleged perpetrators were prosecuted while most of them only faced minor disciplinary consequences, like being sent to a new location. Approximately one in six cases also reportedly involved rape.
Ackermann stated that the report exposed "this dark side of our Church, for the sake of those affected, but also for us ourselves to see the errors and to do everything to prevent them from being repeated.” But the extent of the crimes committed may be even greater than currently known, since various records were “destroyed or manipulated” by clergymen.
The new revelations are only the latest evidence in a series of sexual abuse cases by the Roman Catholic Church all over the world. Only last month, another report found that more than 1,000 children were abused by 300 priests in Pennsylvania. As in Germany, the exact extent of these cases remains unknown while there is evidence for systematic cover-ups by the Church.
Pope Francis, who was widely criticized for his year-long ignorance of the allegations against a U.S. cardinal, summoned Catholic bishops to the Vatican to discuss the future protection of children after the revelations on Wednesday. So far, the Church merely transferred accused priests to other parishes whenever the allegations became too severe to be covered up.
It remains to be seen how the Church will deal with accountability measures for the perpetrators. After all, accountability is in this case not only a legal measure, but also a necessary instrument to acknowledge and validate the victims’ abuses.