It is a painful process: for the victims, some of whom have kept silent for decades out of shame. And for the Jesuit order itself, facing a severe test. It has been just two weeks since the first cases of abuse at Canisius College in Berlin came to light.
Since then, the scandal has spread to the order's other two schools: St. Blasien in the Black Forest and the Aloisius College in Bonn. In addition, there is the St. Ansgar School in Hamburg, which was run by Jesuits until 1993. The official course of the order seems clear. The public confession of some victims makes an investigation procedure for the complete clarification of the abuse cases "possible and compelling," emphasized the highest-ranking Jesuit representative in Germany, Father Stefan Dartmann. He apologized to the victims in the name of the order. And at the same time he asked for forgiveness for "what those responsible in the Order at the time failed to do in terms of taking a necessary and close look and reacting appropriately. This double admission of personal guilt of individuals and the failure of the religious community meets with approval especially among the younger Jesuit generation. Only an investigation of the crimes "without regard for one's own reputation or possible financial consequences" would help now, writes the rector of the Munich School of Philosophy, Michael Bordt, in an open letter. In the crisis, the 49-year-old insists, there is also an opportunity. Here the strengths of the order could show themselves anew: the commitment to faith and justice, to truth and values.
The emotions go high The editor-in-chief of the Jesuit monthly magazine "Stimmen der Zeit," Andreas Batlogg, also hopes for a learning process. It will be a matter of which mechanisms must be set in motion in the future in the event of suspicions. In the past, mistakes were obviously made here, said the 47-year-old in Deutschlandradio Kultur. He refers mainly to the time in the 60s and 70s. For Batlogg, who joined the order in 1985, the critical inquiry thus also goes to those responsible from earlier days. How high in the circle of the older Fathers the emotions go, showed recently a statement of Eberhard von Gemmingen. In an interview with the "Heilbronner Stimme" the former editor-in-chief of Radio Vatican defended himself against putting the Jesuits under general suspicion now. To him, the atmosphere seems like it did at the beginning of the anti-Semitic pogroms against the Jews in National Socialist Germany. Even though the 73-year-old retracted the comparison: the sentences were in the world and forced Jesuit head Dartmann to make a public clarification. In the meantime, the provincial admonished his 400 or so confreres to restrain themselves from speaking out publicly.
First personnel consequences Meanwhile the scandal demands first personnel consequences. In Bonn, the rector of the Aloisius College, Father Theo Schneider, resigned from his post at the beginning of the week. He considered his resignation advisable in the interest of a complete clarification, it was said. Rumors had been circulating at the school for some time about misconduct by a priest who worked at the school for 40 years and only retired from pedagogical work in 2007. It remains to be seen whether the accused will actually be suspected of sexual abuse. In any case, Ursula Raue, the lawyer commissioned by the German Jesuits to clarify the matter, has her hands full. Meanwhile, it seems questionable whether she will complete her report by the middle of the month. And for a long time the incidents burden not only the educational institutions of the order. The mission procuration of the Jesuits in Nuremberg saw itself on Monday to an own explanation prompted. "We understand well if donors are disappointed in the order because of these incidents or have even lost their trust in the order and thus also in our work."