Clarification after 50 years is extremely difficult

Clarification after 50 years is extremely difficult

The accusations are serious: Did nuns give children to priests for abuse in exchange for money?? 50 years later, this thesis can neither be confirmed nor denied. Clarification is nevertheless necessary.

Even a quarter of a year after the most serious allegations of abuse in a children's home run by the Niederbronn sisters in Speyer came to light, it is still uncertain whether the suspicion of a supra-regionally organized promotion of prostitution is true or not. What some helpers of the abuse victims consider proven, the order considers unthinkable. Evidence is lacking.

The main problem is that the incidents date back about half a century. Only a few Niederbronn sisters, who could have been involved or confidants at that time, are still alive. Many alleged victims have also died in the meantime. Of the others, only a few are willing to tell their stories publicly. This is also due to the fact that those affected are still severely traumatized today. So much remains vague.

Traces lead to Niederbronn sisters

Despite the long statute of limitations, it seems unlikely that any of the cases will ever be tried in a criminal court – but the victims have not yet given up hope of this happening. It would be possible, however, for the institutions concerned to have allegations investigated – ideally in an interdisciplinary and independent scientific manner.

Appropriate approaches exist in Bavaria, where the former Hansel and Gretel Home of the City of Munich in Oberammergau, the Maffei House run by the Paritatischer Wohlfahrtsverband in Feldafing on Lake Starnberg, Ettal Monastery and the Salesianum in Munich are named as parts of a possible pedophile network. Here, too, the Niederbronn sisters are in the crosshairs. You were active in the Oberammergau home, which at that time was assigned to a different religious province than the one in Speyer.

Furthermore, it is suspected that there could be traces of a network between the Niederbronn Sisters and the Sisters of the Redeemer who emerged from them and who are active primarily in the diocese of Wurzburg. The Austrian church "Stiftung Opferschutz" (Victim Protection Foundation) also states that it is aware of two cases involving the Niederbronn Sisters. One case concerns psychological violence, another from the first half of the 1970s psychological, physical and sexual violence.

Much is still unclear

It is undisputed that in all the institutions mentioned there was sexual abuse, some of it severe. And it can also be considered certain that perpetrators were involved who found their victims in several places. However, it is unclear whether there were organizational connections between the institutions and whether money flowed from perpetrators to those to whom the children were entrusted.

So far, this accusation of prostitution has only been made by individual children from various institutions. It is said that there had been several victims. The thesis would become more convincing if it were supported by several witnesses from a home. So far this is not the case.

In the middle of the week, the Niederbronn sisters released an expert opinion on an allegedly handwritten document for reporting purposes. It is said to come from the accounts of a religious woman. The sums listed in the accounts, some of which are named, are said to be "pleasure money" that the order collected for the sale of a child from the home to clients in Speyer.

Search for evidence

The Mannheim Scripture and Document Laboratory M.S.U. Concludes that the alleged excerpt from a "cash book" was "almost certainly" not handwritten: "The entries examined can be replicated almost entirely with a computer typeface." The used type "Wiegel Kurrent" had been available in the Internet since 2004.

The document is in the possession of a man who in May 2020 won a state pension under the Victims' Compensation Act before the Darmstadt Social Court. In drastic words, the verdict describes a "time of constant abuse" especially by priests in Speyer's Engelsgasse. It was, so it is said, also about sex parties, at which "the nuns had served the gentlemen with drinks and food, in the other corner the children were raped".

What does this expert opinion mean? First of all, only that the document under investigation fails as evidence. It says nothing about the credibility of its owner. The man claims to have found the alleged excerpt from the "cash book" together with two other documents anonymously in his mailbox – and only after the end of his trial in Darmstadt. Vladimir Kadavy, a pensioner from Passau, is one of those who want to help victims of abuse and who is in contact with the media. He says it was only at his insistence that the Darmstadt plaintiff made the material available to journalists.

Remains the question of who forged the document and why. The only thing that is certain is that a great deal of insider knowledge is required to produce it, if only because of the names mentioned.


Statement of the Niederbronn sisters to the current reporting

"Much of the accusations against our religious community, which have now been widely circulated for many weeks, seemed to us from the beginning to be inconceivable as to their subject matter and incomprehensible as to their alleged evidence or plausibility. The only document available apart from the statements of the person concerned has now turned out to be a clear forgery. In addition the concerning together with Mr. Kadavy has contrary to its statements the so-called cash book already on 02.03.2020 submitted to the legal office of the diocese of Speyer. Without passing moral judgment, we must point out that the credibility of the exceedingly harsh accusations against our sisters is thus massively called into question."

Nuremberg ,12.3.2021

Sr. Barbara Geissinger, Provincial Superior Congregation of the Sisters of the Divine Redeemer (Niederbronn Sisters)

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Christina Cherry
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