Guidelines, expert opinions, contact points

Guidelines, expert opinions, contact points

Specific goals: Germany's Catholic bishops have approved new measures to deal with sexual abuse. Among other things, a guideline for independent processing in the dioceses is to be developed.

The Catholic bishops continue to struggle for a common approach in the face of sexual abuse of minors by clergymen. Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier presented new projects for reappraisal, compensation and prevention in Lingen on Wednesday. It became clear that concrete steps can only be expected after the currently ongoing spring plenary meeting of the Bishops' Conference.

In a first reaction, the Federal Government Commissioner for Abuse, Johannes-Wilhelm Rorig, welcomed the announced measures. The victims' initiative "Eckiger Tisch", on the other hand, expressed dissatisfaction.

Draw up guidelines

According to Ackermann, the church wants to work with Rorig to develop a guideline for independent processing. A meeting has been arranged with the working group set up by Rorig, "Aufarbeitung Kirche", by the end of May. Representatives of abuse victims' associations are also to participate in it. Ackermann, who is the abuse commissioner of the bishops, admitted that an independent processing is not yet established in all dioceses.

This also applies to the commissioning of church-independent contact persons for victims, which has actually been agreed upon for years among the bishops.

Recognition payments for victims

It is still unclear what will happen to the church's recognition payments for victims. The previous method of paying victims, after a mere plausibility check, usually 5.000 euros is "better than its reputation," said the bishop.

Since this procedure – among other things because of the relatively small amount – is publicly criticized, an expert opinion has been commissioned to possibly change it. So far, about 1.900 applications received by the central coordination office. It had so far supported the disbursement of nine million euros.

With regard to the establishment of independent contact points for those affected, according to Ackermann, research is currently underway to determine the extent to which non-clerical specialist counseling centers are suitable as cooperation partners for the church. The goal is to establish a low-threshold counseling service that is confidential to the Catholic Church and anonymous if desired.

Uniform standards for personnel files

Once again, Ackermann announced that uniform standards for clergy personnel files would be developed nationwide. It must be ensured, he said, that in the future accusations of abuse are documented in a binding, uniform and transparent manner in all dioceses.

The so far favored alignment with the German civil service law is problematic, however, the bishop said. Because there, the accused have a right to have certain accusations deleted after a certain period of time. For cases of abuse, however, a permanent archiving would make more sense.

Meanwhile, Rorig welcomed the announced measures. He told the Catholic News Agency (KNA) in Berlin that there was a green light for cooperation with his office and the working group "Aufarbeitung Kirchen" ("Reappraisal of Churches") set up there.

According to his information, seven people are represented in the working group, including the former Minister of Family Affairs Christine Bergmann and the social psychologist Heiner Keupp, as well as the members of the Council of Affected Persons, Matthias Katsch and Kerstin Claus. Katsch is also the spokesman for the victims' initiative "Eckiger Tischer," to which victims of abuse from Jesuit-run schools have united.

Also criticism of results

Meanwhile, Katsch said he was not satisfied with the results presented so far. He expects that the bishops finally present a binding roadmap. Vague announcements are "simply not enough". In addition, he said, there must be concrete information on compensation payments. The impression is wrong that most victims do not want compensation. "They want and need the compensation, because they are affected by the abuse in their life chances".

The "We are Church" movement spoke of an "extremely disappointing" consultation result. "In no essential point" had Ackermann been able to present concrete progress.

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Christina Cherry
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