The German Bishops' Conference wants to further clarify sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. At the center of the investigation are the investigations of the Criminological Institute of Lower Saxony. On our site-interview the director of the institute Christian Pfeiffer explains the procedure. He is anxious to know whether perpetrators have been preying on children as a substitute because the actual target group of men and women was not available. This had been the result of a similar study in the USA.
Interviewer: What exactly was presented today at the press conference?
Christian Pfeiffer (director of the Criminological Research Institute): We have outlined that it will be a very diverse research project. First: Since 1945, a thorough file analysis has been carried out in nine dioceses – not by us, by the way, but by lawyers, former judges and public prosecutors. We ask them in the rooms of the dioceses to deal with these acts. Second, very thorough offender interviews, provided the offenders are willing to talk to us. And thirdly, a very deep investigation into what was done to the victims, how the church dealt with them, what in detail the perpetrators did to them, how that was ended, whether violence was involved and so on, and then ultimately the review of the church's prevention concept.
Interviewer: What are the bishops pursuing by having these documents and these acts processed?
Pfeiffer: I think that, on the one hand, you want to have your own prevention concept critically reviewed by independent experts, but you also hope that the massive loss of trust will be stopped. In the U.S., it turned out that the public was nevertheless very relieved that the church had decided to take the step of letting research do its job independently and expose itself to what happened here. Basically it is an act of confession. We as researchers make it possible for the perpetrators to say openly how it went down and thereby also make a bit of amends, because they help to prevent today's priests from slipping into the same traps.
Interviewer: A study by the German government, which was also presented today, says that abuse still occurs, especially in boarding schools and religious orders. Do you then also take the boarding schools and religious orders in view?
Pfeiffer: On behalf of the German federal government, we have just published 11.000 people asked whether they had been victims of abuse in their childhood and adolescence. Of course, this will also tell us what happened in the boarding schools, in the religious orders. By the way, the religious orders are also our partners in this priestly research, so male members of the orders are also being targeted, and we are also allowed to have their personnel files looked through.
Interviewer: Many ame that the structure of the Catholic Church favors that the perpetrators seek and find their center of life in it. What do the researchers hope for from this study in this respect??
Pfeiffer: I think first of all simple clarification. In the USA, for example, it has been shown that abuse has fallen drastically since it has become easier for priests, due to increasingly liberal sexual morals, to find their actual target group of women and men, if they want to violate celibacy, and no longer have to resort to children as a substitute.
Interviewer: What is the "exciting" thing for them about this study as researchers and about the perpetrator profile of priests and church employees?
Pfeiffer: We will have to wait and see. I don't dare make any predictions yet, because we know too little about the type of perpetrator. That will show the research, which meaning, the genuine Padophilen have, which are fixed on children or whether it, as in the USA, is absolutely dominated by those, which tampered with children as a substitute.
Interviewer: How do you ame the victims will react to it?
Pfeiffer: I think you will be most grateful that they are taken seriously, that in individual cases, if they want, we will spend hours with them, dealing with what they have suffered, what they have experienced. The church has taken a big courageous step here by deciding that we want to talk to all victims who want to contact us.