Genn “unhinged” over slap in face of victims

Genn 'unhinged' over slap in face of victims

Ten days after a clergyman's controversial sermon on abuse and forgiveness, he will be retired. Bishop Felix Genn is catchless. He said the remarks were a slap in the face to victims.

Munster's Bishop Felix Genn's excitement is evident as he appears before the press on this Wednesday afternoon. He is "unhinged" about the events of the past few days, he says.

"That a priest, with all that we now know about sexual abuse, especially by clergy, about perpetrator strategies and the suffering of the victims, goes and makes such statements is inconceivable." This is "a catastrophe," the bishop said in a quivering voice. If it already affects him in such a way, how must it then go to those affected by sexual abuse.

Genn incensed at clergyman's persistence

The bishop, who otherwise often seems so calm, clearly shows how it looks inside him. It's not even primarily the sermon that emeritus pastor Ulrich Zurkuhlen gave last Sunday in Munster's Heilig-Geist-Kirche, in which the 79-year-old called for forgiveness even for clergy who have sexually abused children. Rather, it is the tenacity with which the clergyman defended his view of things even up to Tuesday evening.

In a contribution for the WDR Lokalzeit Munsterland, he had said that he was surprised that many victims had waited so long to make the acts public. If the children had really experienced something so terrible, why did they keep going to the clergyman?. And he went one better by saying that this showed that they had "obviously also had a positive relationship with the man".

With it the clergyman mocks the concerning, so Genn further: He strikes them directly in the face."These statements are in absolute contradiction to the attitude that must characterize the church in dealing with sexual abuse: "Everything we do must be measured by the fact that the focus is on the perspective of the victims."

Bishop draws line

And Genn draws a line: On the one hand, Zurkuhlen is no longer allowed to comment publicly on the matter – "be it in writing or verbally," the bishop clarifies. It also prohibits him from any pastoral ministry. So, as of now, he is not allowed to worship publicly, nor preach, nor hear confessions. The chaplain had already been told that.

Genn added that he also expects a written apology to those affected. Zurkuhlen can, of course, appeal to Rome. But he does not expect an intervention from the Vatican.

The bishop calls the imposed sanctions necessary to prevent that the priest "continues to harass those concerned with his unspeakable theses". Zurkuhlen retired with immediate effect. His salary would be cut.

Community shows relief

Stefan Rau, the senior pastor of the St.-Joseph Parish, to which the Holy Spirit Parish belongs, shows relief. The sermon and further statements could not have remained without consequences. Already the day before, the parish council had demanded the removal of the clergyman from the pastoral care team.

At an evening of talks at the Holy Spirit Church on Monday, the anger and lack of composure of parishioners had become clear.

Also because in the service in question there were also people who had been affected by sexual abuse. Many people had left the church in protest during the sermon, criticizing the priest for not addressing the perspective and suffering of the victims.

At the press conference of the diocese, the question also came up whether there were accusations against Zurkuhlen himself in the matter of abuse or cover-up. In the criticized sermon, he had spoken of a priest friend of his who was accused of abuse.

Zurkuhlen was also employed at a boarding school in the diocese at a time when abuse was alleged to have occurred there. The diocese is not aware of any accusations in this direction, emphasized both Bishop Genn and Vicar General Klaus Winterkamp. Even after the many media reports of recent days, there had been no such indications.

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Christina Cherry
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