September 25, 2018. The official release today by the German bishops of their self-authorized study of the sexual abuse of children in the German church, already widely reported on last week from leaked sources, is significant not only for what it says but for what it doesn’t say. As the authors of the report concede, as shocking and alarming as their conclusions are, the true extent of the abuse is likely much greater and the actual number of victims much higher.
In fact, although claiming to be a National report on the problem of clerical abuse, it clearly is not. No examination of religious order abusers is included in the findings. Male religious orders account for approximately a quarter or all German Catholic clerics. They comprise some of the most high-profile cases of abuse which have been publicly exposed in Germany, especially in educational schools and institutions. As shown in other national studies, religious orders have some of the greatest concentration of abusers, and are particularly prone to transfer clerical sex offenders across wide geographical regions, including to other countries where their orders operate.
Researchers were also given limited and constrained access to church files, no doubt because the German bishops do not want an investigation and examination into their own conduct of systematically transferring and concealing child sex offenders in parishes and schools across Germany.
All one has to do is compare today’s report with the recent grand jury report from Pennsylvania in the United States. The Grand jury was empowered by the law to obtain all church files and call witnesses and experts to testify. The church was given the full latitude of the law as well. Bishops could testify and present evidence, as could priests alleged by church officials to be abusers.
Germany has its own democratically constituted legal system different from the US and other countries. But surely state justice and criminal investigators can perform a full forensic evaluation of church files and call for testimony and, if necessary, prosecutions based on newly uncovered evidence. The archives need to be made public. German Catholics and the public have a right to know exactly how and what church officials have handled child sex abuse cases.
Finally, the report does not reveal who the priests are that even the church has determined assaulted children. Privacy is a foundational right of democratic societies. But privacy must be weighed against issues of public safety, especially when an individual commits crimes against children in the course of their professional occupation.
What the report does show is that the child sex abuse and cover up crisis in the church is a global problem. The abuse of children in Germany and the complicity of the hierarchy in these criminal acts has been happening around the world. Ultimately, this global problem needs a global solution.
Matthias Katsch, ECA Global Founding Member, spokesperson for ECKIGER TISCH (Squared Table), Member of the German Council of Survivors.
Tel: +49 (0) 1781674838.
WHO WE ARE
Ending Clergy Abuse (ECA) is a global justice organization of prominent clergy abuse survivor leaders and human rights activists from over 18 countries and 4 continents. ECA compels the Roman Catholic Church to end clergy abuse, especially child sexual abuse, in order to protect children and to seek justice for victims. https://www.ecaglobal.org – @ENDCLERGYABUSE –firstname.lastname@example.org