Germany - The full report on sex abuse inside the German Catholic Church was officially released on 25 September and it showed that at least 3,677 people were abused by clergy between 1946 and 2014. The report was already leaked earlier this month and was heavily criticized for the lack of transparency and the church’s refusal to let the researchers access the original documents. It was also reported that local dioceses destroyed some files containing more reports of sex abuse. The report detailed how 60% of abusive priests eluded punishment, and how many were systematically moved to other parishes in the hope their crimes could be hushed up.
A top German bishop has apologized for thousands of sexual abuse cases that took place inside the Catholic Church in Germany saying that ‘sexual abuse is a crime.’ “I’m ashamed for so many (of us) looking away, not wanting to recognize what happened and not helping the victims. That goes for me as well,” Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who is also the head of the German Bishops Conference, told reporters. “Many people don’t believe in us any longer,” he said, calling the report a “decisive, important turning point for the Catholic Church in Germany – and not only in Germany”.
The apology came on the same day that Pope Francis acknowledged that the sex abuse scandal rocking the Catholic Church was driving people away. He said the church must change its ways if it wants to keep future generations.
According to the report more than half of the victims were 13 or younger and most were boys. Every sixth case involved rape and at least 1,670 clergy were involved. Some 969 abuse victims were altar boys. The current flood of revelations about Catholic priests sexually preying on minors and the failure of Catholic officials to expose these outrages is taking on the dimensions of a history-changing scandal.
German Justice Minister Katarina Barley said “the dioceses and religious orders must finally take on responsibility for decades of suppression and denial … the church must press criminal charges in every case.”
A psychiatrist from Mannheim University, who presented the report together with Marx and others in the central German city of Fulda during a convention of the German Bishops Conference, said that “The figures are only the tip of the iceberg,” and he warned that “the risk of sexual abuse of children inside the Catholic Church continues to exist.” He said celibacy, the clergy’s power and homosexuality inside the church were all issues that promote abuse.
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