“Very difficult confusion of competences”

When abuse in the church is discussed, it is always about cover-up. One year after Rome's anti-abuse summit, the ie of accountability is more important than ever for child protection experts.

"When I look at the church as a whole, I look at the processes, the responsibilities, how we're organized, we have a huge deficit in the clarity of responsibilities and what someone has to answer for."Hans Zollner says that. But the Vatican child protection expert does not appear resigned on Monday evening in Wurzburg.

He has been invited by the cathedral school there and by the Catholic Chair of Fundamental Theology to speak about the consequences of the abuse scandal. And they are far from drawn for the theologian and psychologist.

Still easy to deflect accountability

A lack of accountability in the church is just one ie here. It is still easy to shift responsibility when it comes to abuse, says the head of the Child Protection Center CCP at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

Social, community, ecclesiastical and legal responsibility are still not sufficiently defined, he said: "Who is responsible when, who is responsible when, who has signed, who has been consulted, who is jointly responsible?"

As an example, he cites, of all things, an episode of the anti-abuse summit a year ago at the Vatican, which he played a major role in preparing. Pope Francis had decreed that even cover-ups of abuse should be prosecuted. But exactly there it becomes already again difficult, if one follows Zollner.

"Very, very difficult tangle of competencies"

Eight different congregations in the Curia were involved here, he said: For bishops in Europe, for example, the Congregation for Bishops; for those in the New World, the Congregation for Evangelization; for religious orders, again, the Congregation for Religious Affairs. If the community is led by a lay person, the body for the laity comes into play; for Anglicans who switched to the Catholic Church, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; and for nuncios, the Secretariat of State. If the Eastern churches are affected, there is again a separate post.

"To whom it can be explained?", asks Zollner. But above all: How could a victim succeed in bringing his or her concern to the right place?? In addition, one runs the risk that different standards are found in the assessment of the behavior, criticizes the Jesuit priest. Bishop Franz Jung of Wurzburg also speaks of a "very, very difficult confusion of competences" in the Vatican during the discussion. In addition, cases are always judged differently than in Germany. There is a need for "much, much greater reliability" here, Jung demands.

On the question of what reappraisal means, Zollner demands that not only damages be paid and perpetrators punished. Victims must also be involved in the systemic processing of the crimes, she said. He said it was important for those in positions of responsibility to engage with those affected by the ie. "All those who have really exposed themselves to it have also understood what they have to do."Even theology has not yet responded sufficiently to the fact that the church as an institution is affected by abuse at the core of its message.

Subject not left to psychologists and lawyers alone

Jesuit warns against leaving the ie to psychologists and lawyers alone. Moreover, there should be no "immunization strategies" by bringing other ies to the fore again. Of course, it is psychologically understandable to want to turn away from a topic where the claim and reality of the church are very far apart, the religious concedes. Because: "If you look in the mirror and see a grimace staring back at you, you'd rather look away."

In the process, it is necessary to use the residual credibility, to really go forward, "consistently, transparently and consistently," Zollner said. "This can't be delegated, your own face has to be visible, this requires personal commitment."

The bishop of Wurzburg announces that in the future there should also be projects in his diocese to come to terms with the past. For him, the crucial questions are: "Who was responsible at the time, why were things handled in what way, how was the perception of the problem of sexual abuse in the first place and how could it happen that no one intervened?"This becomes very strenuous.

By Christian Wolfel

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