“Rethinking the role of women”

How do the religious orders in Germany evaluate the study on abuse in the Catholic Church?? Finally, the scandal became public through the reporting of assaults by fathers of the Berlin Jesuit order eight years ago.

CBA: In the study on abuse in the Catholic Church published on Tuesday, religious only appear if they were pastors in a congregation. You have been the prevention officer of the German Conference of Superiors of Religious Orders for a year now, and for a few weeks you have been its chairperson. What is your most important insight on the subject of abuse?

Sr. Katharina Kluitmann (President of the German Conference of Superiors of Religious Orders / DOK): In any case, we must involve those affected in the process of coming to terms with the past. And we must listen to them carefully.

CBA: At the launch of the study on abuse in the Catholic Church, you were there. Religious are involved there only to a small extent, plan your own studies?
Kluitmann: We will read the study, and we will sit down with experts – for us these are scientists and those affected – and see whether and which parallel studies of the orders are meaningful and feasible.
CBA: What does it depend on?
Kluitmann: On the one hand, the situation is different for men's and women's congregations, since in society as a whole the perpetrators of sexualized violence are predominantly men. In some communities there are only a few representatives left, all of whom have to be cared for in nursing homes themselves. Neither reappraisal nor prevention makes sense there. It is certainly important to focus on the communities that come into contact with children and young people, whether in institutions such as boarding schools or in pastoral care.
CBA: Can you already foresee what the religious orders, for example, should do differently in coming to terms with the situation??
Kluitmann: What is needed is a thorough reappraisal, possibly also with scientists. A lot has already been done in the area of prevention, and as an umbrella organization we are trying to continue to support our members.
CBA: What must happen with regard to the entire Church?
Kluitmann: I think a lot has already changed. The different levels of the Church realize that the fight against abuse can only succeed together. The chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, has indicated his willingness to cooperate with government agencies. The Bishops' Conference itself is also opening up more and more: as a representative of a religious order, I was also invited along with others, for example those affected, and we were also able to join in the discussion. This is very welcome.
CBA: What reforms do you expect?
Kluitmann: It has now become clear that there can be no more "business as usual" and that it is not a matter of individual perpetrators, but that there are systemic structures that favor abuse. Religious orders are traditionally closer to the people, they founded the first hospitals and girls' schools in the past. Maybe we can go a step further together.
CBA: What could that mean?
Kluitmann: We must continue to work on our communication culture. In training, one's own emotional world must play an important role. Here I mean not only one's own sexuality, but also the relationship with God and feelings. Scientists attest to emotional immaturity of many priests. How can they be good pastors??

The position of women must also change. A clerical world is now synonymous with a man's world. Of course, this leads to completely different dynamic processes than in a mixed-sex constellation.

CBA: But only men can be ordained as priests…

Kluitmann: In 21. In the twenty-first century, there must be no more prohibitions on thinking there either. It is unrealistic to simply declare a discussion about ordaining women to be over. The church needs profound reforms. This is, of course, uncomfortable for all those who currently benefit from the system.

The interview was conducted by Birgit Wilke.

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Christina Cherry
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