More and more findings about past abuse in German schools come to light. Sexual assaults also took place at a private school in Hesse. On her own website, the principal of the Odenwald School in Heppenheim admits to years of abuse of charges by educators.

School principal Margarita Kaufmann told the newspaper, "It is a fact for me that sexual abuse has taken place here at least since 1971."The paper wrote that former students reported they were regularly awakened by teachers fondling their genitals and assigned as "sexual service providers" for entire weekends and forced to perform oral sex. Individual educators had left students to their guests for sexual abuse. Teachers would have beaten protected children, supplied them with drugs and alcohol, or failed to intervene in the communal abuse of a girl. As early as 1998, cases were announced According to the school's website, the first accusations against long-time principal Gerold Becker, who led the school from 1971 to 1985, were made as early as 1998. But at the time, the acts had already been barred by the statute of limitations. Kaufmann told the newspaper, "It was an understatement and a gross mistake that the school did not investigate at the time." She herself had been approached again last year by former students who feared the school would again shirk its responsibilities during the 100th anniversary celebration in April 2010. As a result, he says, she had several conversations with ex-students, which gave her a glimpse of the true extent of the scandal. She said she ames at least three teachers were guilty of sexual assaults. From witnesses it had heard the names of 20 victims. According to a report in the "Frankfurter Rundschau", the old school students concerned ame that there were 50 to 100 victims of abuse. According to the school's own statements, it was founded by reform pedagogues and has had a number of prominent students, including former BDI boss Tyll Necker, writer Klaus Mann, Green Party politician Daniel Cohn-Bendit and a son of former German President Richard von Weizsacker.

Christina Cherry

With a letter to former students of the Berlin Canisius College, its rector, Father Klaus Mertes, has triggered a nationwide debate on sexual abuse. In an interview with the Catholic News Agency (KNA) on Wednesday in Berlin, Mertes spoke about his expectations for the Round Table against Child Abuse, which will meet for the first time on Friday.



CBA: Father Mertes, what do you hope for from the round table?
Mertes: I hope for two things: on the one hand, suggestions and reflections on the keyword prevention; on the other hand, greater clarity on the topic of compensation, the – I prefer to put it this way – recognition of the inflicted suffering on a financial level. Finding a common solution would be very desirable – together with the other orders, churches, with all other – also state – sponsors of schools and other educational institutions where abuse can happen. For us, for example, it would be a great help if there were a nationwide uniform clarification, for example, for possible lump-sum payments.
CBA: One contentious ie in dealing with abuse cases is mandatory reporting. What is your position?
Mertes: It is undisputed that there is such a duty to report certain crimes and that the church, for its part, does not want to set up parallel criminal proceedings with the intention of replacing state criminal proceedings. However, I am skeptical about a general duty to report, as are the victims' associations with which I have contact, by the way. The prosecutor's office is not a victim protection organization. In the interest of victim protection, it would therefore be necessary to look at what reporting obligations mean for victims and their opportunities to speak out.
CBA: Independently of the Round Table, the inner-church debate on how to deal with abuse cases continues. Are the preconditions for the purification of the church demanded by many bishops in place??
Mertes: I believe that the reports of the victims are a very great opportunity for the Church to look at itself from a critical perspective. This allows for self-examination and, where necessary, self-renewal.
CBA: There are also many priests who now fear a sterile pastoral care. Is this fear justified?
Mertes: The most important thing is not to be dependent on fears for oneself in pastoral care. When a child comes to me, confides in me, throws himself into my arms sobbing, then I can let him cry in my arms. Abuse also has to do with a lack of sovereignty. Abuse of power is extremely unsovereign behavior. Conversely, however, I can accept trust if I can always disclose what I am living at the same time.
KNA: What practical consequences has your school drawn for prevention work from the reappraisal so far?
Mertes: One institution alone is overburdened with prevention and processing of abuse. That is why cooperation is important. We are currently in the process of establishing contacts with victim protection organizations such as Tauwetter and Wildwasser. In addition, the complaints procedures need to be thought through once again. Promoting regular reflection on closeness and distance behavior in the teaching profession also seems to me to be a key ie. Interview: Birgit Wilke

Christina Cherry

The bishops in Austria want to improve the handling of cases of sexual abuse. At its spring plenary session, the Austrian Bishops' Conference decided to introduce uniform regulations throughout the country. In addition, the bishops warned against growing xenophobia in the country.

In addition, the work of the episcopal abuse commissioners should be better networked and the Catholic religious orders should be included in their work, according to a statement published in Sankt Polten on Friday. "What is decisive is the clear and consistent handling of concrete cases of suspicion and accusations by church leaders," the bishops said. The basis for the nationwide rules should be those in force in the Archdiocese of Vienna. Until the summer, a project group should work out an overall concept. With "shame and sadness" the bishops admit that in the past the perpetrators had often been protected more than the victims. For sexual abuse there can only be remorse, the request for forgiveness and the effort to heal the wounds. The bishops called on all victims of abuse to contact the commissioners of the dioceses. Likewise, they called for the perpetrators to be held honestly accountable.

Christina Cherry