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Earthquake in the German Church after a report reveals hundreds of cases of sexual abuse of children


The 800-page document identifies 202 perpetrators of sexual assault and 314 victims between 1975 and 2018

Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, after the press conference in which he released the report that reveals hundreds of sexual abuse of minors in the German Church.INA FASSBENDERAFP
Hundreds of minors suffered sexual abuse in the diocese of Colonia, the largest of Germany, and several religious officials covered up, as revealed this Thursday a report, whose publication has forced a prelate to resign. The long-awaited 800-page document on the diocese of Cologne identified 202 responsible for sexual assault Y 314 vctimas between 1975 and 2018, the lawyer to whom the Church entrusted the investigation has affirmed to the press, Bjoern Gercke. “More than half of the victims were children under the age of 14,” Gercke said.

About 70% of the alleged perpetrators were members of the clergy and the rest lay, he explained. If the latter were punished, it was not the case of the priests, he stressed. The report, however, has not been able to identify any wrongdoing against the cardinal. Rainer Maria Woelki. “This gives me a deep shame,” reacted Woelki, who has suspended with immediate effect two leaders of the Church of Cologne, the bishop Dominikus Schwaderlapp and the head of the diocesan court Guenter Assenmacher, for “covering up” of abuse cases. “The acts must also have consequences for the members of the clergy,” the cardinal declared.

Among the ecclesiastics accused of negligence in dealing with these cases, most of which date back to the 1970s, are the current Archbishop of Hamburg, Stefan Hesse, former personal chief in Cologne, like the two predecessors, now deceased, of Woelki at the head of the diocese.

The Archbishop of Hamburg has announced that he had asked the Pope Francisco be “removed from his duties immediately”, although he has categorically denied any wrongdoing. “I am willing to take my share of responsibility for the failure of the system,” he said.

“The extent of the abuse is terrifying”

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“The extent of the abuses and violations by religious leaders of their duty”, as described in the report, is “terrifying”, said the government commissioner for sexual assault issues, Johannes-Wilhelm Rrig, which has highlighted the publication after an “unbearable wait”.

Woelki led a scandal last year by refusing to publish a first report for the period 1975 to 2018, citing breaches and data protection problems. The decision exasperated the victims, caused the mass flight in their diocese and the misunderstanding of their peers. To such an extent that the cardinal requested this new report.

Monsignor Woelki’s communication is “a disaster”, judged at the end of February the head of the assembly of bishops Georg Btzing, in an unusual severe criticism. The controversy with Woelki came at a time when the Catholic church He had made some progress in acknowledging his guilt and compensating the victims.

In 2018, a report commissioned by the German Church revealed that 3,677 children or adolescents were victims of sexual abuse by more than 1,000 members of the clergy since 1946. Most of those responsible for these events were not punished.

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Not having access to all the files, the study authors noted that the number of victims was probably higher. The revelations, similar to other scandals in countries like Australia, Chile, France, Ireland Y U.S, they took the cardinal Reinhard Marx, reformist, to apologize on behalf of the German Catholic Church.

Escape of the faithful

The bishops have established compensation – deemed insufficient for the victims – which “could be up to 50,000 euros“per person, against the 5,000 euros established so far. In addition, each diocese has initiated an additional local investigation under the supervision of a mixed commission.

In case of Colonia it also affects the possibilities of modernization of the Church currently under discussion in the framework of a synod. It is also about retaining the faithful, who pay a tax in Germany and help finance, for example, charitable associations.

The number of members of the Catholic Church, which continues to be the majority in the country, fell to 22.6 million in 2019, that is, 2 million less than in 2010, the year of revelation of the sexual abuse scandals. The Pope Francisco has taken steps to combat the silence surrounding the sexual abuse of minors in the Church. In 2019, it adopted a historic measure that forces the clergy to report any sexual abuse.

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