Archdiocese shows itself ashamed

Archdiocese shows itself ashamed

The late Auxiliary Bishop Engelbert Siebler with Pope Benedict in 2006 © KNA

The late Auxiliary Bishop Engelbert Siebler of Munich is accused of mistreating students at a church boarding school in Upper Bavaria. This is reported by the "Suddeutsche Zeitung". An ex-student also accuses him of sexual abuse.

Siebler was director of the Saint Michael Seminary in Traunstein from 1976 to 1985. During this time the acts are said to have occurred.

Siebler is the highest-ranking Catholic clergyman in Bavaria against whom an alleged victim has made such an accusation. The archdiocese of Munich and Freising is responsible for the Traunstein boarding school. Since 1939, it has also been attended by Joseph Ratzinger, later Archbishop of Munich and Pope.

Archdiocese shows itself ashamed

A spokesman for the archdiocese confirmed to the Catholic News Agency (KNA) that the alleged victim had approached the archdiocese's abuse commissioner in 2016 with allegations of physical and psychological violence against Siebler. According to the interview transcript, the man also reported "strange physical advances": However, nothing concrete had happened. There had been no further contact with the former student and his lawyers at his own request as of fall 2016.

According to the ordinariate, the facts of the case were incomplete. There were too many unanswered questions to be able to assess the plausibility of the accusations, which is why the auxiliary bishop was not confronted with them. This was also communicated to the lawyers at that time, together with the offer of further talks. The person concerned did not respond to this. The SZ now quotes his lawyer as saying that her client is "hardly in a position to talk about what happened".

The diocesan spokesman said that the archdiocese deeply regrets and is ashamed when minors and adult wards become victims of psychological, physical or sexual violence by church employees. Every tip is taken seriously. He said the archdiocese was "very keen to have a full process of coming to terms with the matter in the interests of those affected". The latter are called upon to turn to the independent abuse commissioners of the archdiocese.

In the SZ article, the former seminarian states that Siebler "consistently exposed him at boarding school, sadistically tortured him and massively beat him". Siebler's "specialty" had been to "pull on the sideburns with massive force". According to his lawyer, prefects at the time had also been perpetrators. The man had refused a meeting with church representatives on the grounds that he lacked the strength to do so.

Head of the School Commission of the Bishops' Conference

The SZ has, according to its own information, spoken to other former Traunstein boarding school pupils. No one has made an accusation of sexual abuse. However, a "climate of fear" prevailed under Director Siebler, they said.

Siebler was born in Jarzt near Freising in 1937 and ordained a priest in 1963. He had already been a prefect at the Traunstein seminary from 1966 to 1971, and then a religion teacher at various places for several years. Under Cardinal Friedrich Wetter, he was first promoted to diocesan school advisor and in 1986 was appointed auxiliary bishop. From 2001 to 2006, he headed the school commission of the German Bishops' Conference. He died in 2018.

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Christina Cherry
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