On the same track

On the same track

The German Bishops' Conference welcomes the fact that the federal government has agreed on a single round table to deal with the abuse scandal. The conference chairman, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, told the CBA in Berlin on Wednesday that the Catholic Church would do everything possible to guarantee a full investigation and complete transparency.

Zollitsch met on Wednesday in Berlin with the church and religion policy spokesmen of the parliamentary groups in the Bundestag. The meeting focused on the current situation regarding sexual abuse of minors. The participants in the discussion agreed that this problem is a challenge for society as a whole and should not be reduced to the Catholic Church. Siegmund Ehrmann (SPD), Maria Flachsbarth (CDU/CSU), Stefan Ruppert (FDP) and Josef Winkler (Bundnis 90/Die Grunen) took part in the discussion. According to a statement circulated afterwards, all participants in the meeting stressed the need for society to develop even more of a culture of attentive watching. Parliamentarians encouraged Zollitsch to continue on the path taken. Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and Federal Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger (FDP) had previously announced that the federal government had now agreed on a joint round table to deal with the scandal after all. The FDP politician had previously called for a separate round table for abuse cases in the church.

Merkel's merits The creation of a single round table apparently goes back to efforts by Merkel. It was the Chancellor's concern to bundle the various activities on this ie and organize a common platform, said government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm in Berlin on Wednesday. The round table leaves room for the different responsibilities of the three involved federal ministries of justice, families and education. According to a spokesman for the Federal Ministry of Justice, however, there is as yet no agreement on who specifically will invite to the round table – whether just one ministry, all three or the Federal Chancellery. The Family Ministry confirmed that in any case, however, the date ied by him for the first meeting on 23. April persisted. On the question of those involved in the roundtable, ministry spokesman Hanno Schafer said, "There will be representatives from politics and society. And we will make sure that those affected will also be represented in an appropriate manner."In which form the concerning should be involved, he did not specify. Government spokesman Wilhelm stressed that with regard to the invitation ie, there was "only a need for technical coordination, but no need for coordination on content". Merkel spoke of a "test for the whole of society" before the Bundestag on Wednesday. It is important that the victims can feel recognized and respected again in this society and "at least get the piece of reparation that can be created in retrospect," Merkel said Wednesday in the general debate on the budget.

Compensation fund not decided Meanwhile, the German Bishops' Conference has denied reports that it wants to set up a fund to compensate victims of abuse. Spokesman Matthias Kopp told the Catholic News Agency (KNA) in Bonn on Wednesday that this had not been discussed so far. About forms and ways of help must be carefully discussed. At the same time, Kopp pointed out that the guidelines of the Bishops' Conference of 2002 already provide for "human, therapeutic and pastoral assistance" for victims and their relatives. There is already help offered in many forms. The "Suddeutsche Zeitung" had reported in its online edition that the bishops wanted to establish a fund for the compensation of victims as well as for education and prevention or to participate in a fund of several institutions and the state. The fund set up by the bishops in 2000 for former foreign and forced laborers in Catholic institutions during World War II is to serve as a model. The abuse commissioner of the Bishops' Conference, Bishop Stephan Ackermann, had previously shown himself open to forms of material or immaterial recognition for victims. But it must be fair to the people. "We don't want to buy our way out by paying certain sums," Trier bishop said. The head of the Catholic Office, Karl Justen, also said on the ARD morning news program, "In principle, the Church acknowledges its responsibility to help people". At present, the Bishops' Conference is discussing how those affected can also be helped materially.

Bavaria: Extension of the statute of limitations Bavaria is currently working on a Bundesrat initiative to extend the statute of limitations for sexual abuse in the criminal code. This was confirmed to the epd by the Bavarian Ministry of Justice. Currently, the statute of limitations is ten years after the beginning of the age of majority. This time limit should be increased to 30 years so that victims still have the opportunity to take legal action against a perpetrator of violence later.The Federal Ministry of Justice sees the Bavarian way with reservations. A spokesman told epd it was doubtful whether victims would be served by tougher criminal laws. For the victims this would mean a new confrontation with the crime – under circumstances after many years. However, the likelihood of solving a crime tends to decrease over time.

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Christina Cherry
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