The extent was not clear to him. Ten years ago, Father Klaus Mertes, as rector of the Canisius College in Berlin, informed former students about possible cases of abuse – and started an avalanche. Today he believes and hopes that the scandal will lead to a rethinking in the church.
Interviewer: Father Mertes, did you expect ten years ago that your circular letter to the former students would trigger such a gigantic response??
Father Klaus Mertes (Jesuit and director of the Catholic College of Sankt Blasien): No, I had expected a response from the former students and perhaps also reports in the local press. But such a big reaction was not foreseeable.
Interviewer: Why did you take this step at that time?
Mertes: Because it's a matter of responsibility. If you learn that there must be at least 100 victims of abuse in former vintages, then there is a responsibility to ask: What happened there?? It is important to ask those affected to come forward, because it can be amed that they may even have tried in the past, but were not listened to.
Interviewer: If you say there was a responsibility, but apparently you were one of the first to see it that way. How much have you been opposed in recent years for taking this step?
Mertes: I have been very much opposed by many. But much more I have experienced support from within the Catholic church people. It is quite natural that one takes responsibility in such a question.
Interviewer: In the meantime, one consequence of the abuse crisis is also the Synodal Way, which the Church would like to follow together with lay people. Is that the departure that is necessary in your eyes?
Mertes: I believe that the ie of sexual abuse, especially by clerics, and above all the ie of cover-up and abuse, is a very important one. the blindness at the management level to what responsibility means in this context, especially in the systemic contexts that foster all this. From this ie, of course, comes a force for a real turnaround.
But only if the Church – and indeed the universal Church, not only the Church in Germany – understands that in the innermost core of the mission of the Church it is harmful to destructive if it is not able to protect children from perpetrators and cover-up.After all, the perpetrators do not simply break into the church from the outside, but come from the innermost part of the church, bear responsibility within it and represent. Therefore, I believe, the abuse story is a signal and a beacon to the church to rethink in the sense of biblical repentance and conversion.
Interviewer: There are accusations that the abuse scandal is being used in church politics to push through the abolition of celibacy, for example. Share this view?
Mertes: This is an outrageous killer argument. And these killer arguments cannot be refuted because they are always right. You can always say that something is being instrumentalized here when the systemic background is addressed in the case of abuse and favoring of abuse – which is never to be confused with a direct cause, but is nevertheless related to the favoring.
But this is nothing more than a defensive reaction towards the ie. I find this outrageous, especially when it comes from a bishop's mouth.
The interview was conducted by Tobias Fricke.