“There is something wrong”

Klaus Mertes had sparked the nationwide abuse debate in 2010 with his exposure of cases at Berlin's Canisius College. Now the SPD honored him for it. At the award ceremony, the Jesuit priest criticized initial reactions within the Catholic Church.

Father Klaus Mertes, former rector of the Berlin Jesuit grammar school Canisius-Kolleg, received the SPD's Gustav Heinemann Citizen Award on Thursday evening. The one with 10.The party explained in Berlin that the award, which is endowed with € 000, is intended to honor Mertes' role in clearing up the abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. In early 2010, the 57-year-old had triggered the nationwide abuse debate with the revelation of cases at Canisius College.

In his laudatory speech, SPD party chairman Sigmar Gabriel paid tribute to the Jesuit priest. He was a "passionate educator who radiates the joy of the Christian faith from the bottom of his heart". Mertes had taken "responsibility for crimes committed by members of his order, for years of silence and cover-up". His actions, he said, sparked a broad debate about sexual abuse and indirectly enabled other victims to speak out.

Criticism of earlier reactions
In his response, Mertes criticized earlier reactions from the Catholic Church in dealing with the cases of abuse at Canisius College. Mertes said he felt great pain that his commitment to this cause had triggered so much violence and nasty insults on the Internet. "How can one call an action that is self-evident nest-fouling. There is something wrong," the Jesuit said. For him, the reactions pointed to a major crisis of faith in the Catholic Church.

The SPD awarded Mertes the prize after a vote on the Internet. In recent days, there have been calls in the media for equal honor to be paid to Matthias Katsch, spokesman for the "Eckiger Tisch" victims' initiative, who was present at the event. In his speech, Gabriel also addressed criticism. "To those affected, we all – and that includes politics, church and society – owe recognition, justice and compensation," the politician said. It must be further ensured that "the truth comes to light without gaps". The German government's former abuse commissioner, Christine Bergmann, and the current abuse commissioner, Johannes-Wilhelm Rorig, were also present.

In addition to Mertes, data protection expert and spokeswoman for the Chaos Computer Club, Constanze Kurz, and women's rights activist Emel Zeynelabidin had also been nominated. On spd.de participated over 5.000 people at the polls. For 35 years, the SPD has awarded the prize annually to personalities or initiatives who, in the spirit of former German President Gustav Heinemann (1899-1976), stand up for civic courage and civil courage.

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Christina Cherry
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