Bishop Stephan Ackermann and Johannes-Wilhelm Rorig (r.) © Harald Oppitz (KNA)
The Bishop of Trier, Stephan Ackermann, has started a process for the institutional reappraisal of abuse in the diocese with experts and affected persons. The investigation should bring light into the darkness.
The goal is to see "where were structures in our diocese that made abuse possible, that prevented it from being discovered, or where it was even covered up," Ackermann said.
He signed for his diocese a declaration of the German bishops and the abuse commissioner of the federal government, which provides for uniform criteria for all dioceses to deal with abuse, and put it into effect for the diocese of Trier.
Commission has five years
Commission, whose work is scheduled to last six years, is to start in October. Results to be available in about five years. The commission will include representatives of the diocese, experts from science, practice, the judiciary and public administration, as well as those affected. The commission decides independently which period it will investigate and also decides in which form the results will be published.
Individual cases or institutional responsibility?
Ackermann, who is also the abuse commissioner of the Bishops' Conference, stressed that coming to terms with abuse in the church is not "at a standstill". Up to now, however, it has mainly been possible in individual cases. "Now we are going a step further and addressing the institutional responsibility that the bishop and diocese must take for wrongs that have been committed."
Dealing with perpetrators and those affected should also be looked at, he said. He cited independence, transparency and the participation of those affected as criteria for coming to terms with the abuse.
Advisory council for victims to be founded
An advisory board of five persons is to accompany further steps for prevention in the diocese in the future. People who have experienced sexualized violence by church employees – either in the diocese of Trier or who now live there – can register with the diocese until the end of August.
The Bishops' Conference was the first institution in Germany to conclude an agreement with the federal government's abuse commissioner on coming to terms with abuse. Accordingly, in the future there should be an independent commission in all 27 dioceses for the reappraisal. Some dioceses, such as Mainz and Limburg, had already begun the process in their own commissions.