“Consequences must follow”

Bishop Gebhard Furst © Harald Oppitz (KNA)

"Frightening". With these words, the Bishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, Gebhard Furst, outlines the first study results on abuse in the Catholic Church that have become known – and declares his support for a transparent process of coming to terms with it.

Credibility can only be regained if the church leaders in the dioceses accept the study results and draw consequences from them, Furst explained in Rottenburg on Thursday.

Press conference announced

According to an advance report by "Der Spiegel," the new abuse study by the German Bishops' Conference documents a total of 3.677 sexual assaults of at least 1.670 priests and religious in the years from 1946 to 2014. The bishops want to publish the extensive study on 25 September. The diocese will present the results of the investigation at its fall plenary meeting in Fulda in September.

The "Spiegel" refers to a summary of the results available to the magazine. According to official crime statistics, about 12 cases of abuse are committed in Germany every year.500 cases of sexual abuse of minors known. For the long-term study of church cases, according to "Spiegel," more than 38.000 personnel and hand files from all 27 German dioceses have been evaluated. The victims were predominantly male minors, more than half of whom were younger than 14 at the time of the crime. About one in six cases involved some form of rape, the authors said. Three quarters of all those affected had a church or pastoral relationship with the accused.

'Conservative amption' by authors

The available figures, the magazine added, were described by the authors as a conservative amption. There are no clear findings about the number of unreported cases. As "Spiegel" further reports, about half of all cases would not have been discovered without an application for compensation by the victims, because the personal files of the accused would not have contained any clues. In many cases files had also been destroyed or manipulated.

Time and again, accused clerics have been transferred to another location without the new congregation being "provided with the appropriate information" about the abuser, they said. Only a third of the perpetrators had to face proceedings under church law.

Reappraisal institutionally anchored

Furst pointed out that the Wurttemberg diocese has institutionally anchored the reappraisal and prevention of abuse cases since the year 2002. Every allegation of abuse would be scrupulously investigated. Since 2002, a total of 72 clergy have been accused of abuse, 45 people have since died, he said.

To date, the diocese has provided abuse victims with 640.000 euros paid out in recognition of suffering experienced. In addition one has therapy costs at a value of 130.000 euros taken over.

All personnel files of deacons and priests examined

Furst added that for the nationwide study, diocesan files from 2000 to 2014 were evaluated. All personnel files of deacons and priests who were employed or retired by the diocese in 2000 were examined. In total, there were 1.950 personnel files reviewed. (KNA)

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Christina Cherry
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