In den USA und Australien, in England, Frankreich, Österreich und in Irland – und jetzt auch in Berlin: Berichte über Übergriffe Geistlicher auf Schutzbefohlene häufen sich. Vor allem Katholiken sind betroffen. Die Bischofskonferenz reagiert dabei oft unangemessen.
WELCHE FÄLLE VON SEXUELLEM MISSBRAUCH GAB ES BISHER IN DER KATHOLISCHEN KIRCHE?
Nachrichten wie diese gibt es mittlerweile regelmäßig: Vor einem Monat meldeten irische Zeitungen, dass zwei Bischöfe aus der Erzdiözese Dublin ihren Rücktritt angeboten haben, weil sie 30 Jahre lang Misshandlungen von Kindern durch Geistliche vertuscht haben sollen. Untersuchungen im Auftrag der Regierung hatten aufgedeckt, dass tausende Zöglinge in katholischen Kinderheimen und anderen kirchlichen Einrichtungen über Jahre von Priestern vergewaltigt und sexuell gedemütigt wurden. Auch in den USA und Australien, in England, Frankreich und Österreich sind in den vergangenen Jahren zahlreiche Fälle von Kindesmissbrauch durch Geistliche bekannt geworden. Allein 2006 wurden in den USA 714 glaubhafte Beschuldigungen gegen 448 Priester erhoben.
Sexual abuse cases in the Catholic Church have come from the United States, Australia, England, France, Austria and Ireland and now also in Berlin. The numbers of attacks by clerics has been growing and Catholics are concerned. The reaction from the Episcopal Conference is often inadequate.
A month ago, Irish newspapers reported that two bishops offered their resignations from the Dublin archdiocese because they were said to have glossed over 30 years of abuse of children by priests. Studies commissioned by the government discovered that thousands of pupils were raped by priests in Catholic orphanages and other church institutions.
Even in the U.S., Australia and England, France and Austria numerous cases of child abuse by priests have been reported. In the U.S., 714 credible accusations were made against 448 priests in 2006 alone.
Psychologist Wunibald Muller has dealt with the issue for years and be believes the situation in Germany is not significantly different from that in other countries. He estimates the proportion of Catholic priests in Germany who sexually abuse children or young people is about two to four percent of all clerics and numbers 350 to 700 abusive priests. The number of reported cases in Germany is negligible, according to unofficial estimates, but in recent years about two dozen clerics have been accused in dioceses, including Regensburg, Bamberg and recently in Aachen.
Pope John Paul II in 2001 asked forgiveness of victims of sexual abuse by priests and requested clarification of the issue. Pope Benedict XVI and the German Bishops' Conference has repeatedly apologized to abuse victims. In 2002, the German bishops issued guidelines to dioceses on sexual abuse of minors by priests. They acknowledged that victims are damaged by this abuse. Each local bishop is to appoint a body of psychologists, doctors, lawyers and theologians for investigation of abuse allegations. The bishops are told to review immediately any suspicion of abuse that comes to their attention. If there is reasonable suspicion that abuse has occured, the prosecutor is to be notified and victims and their families are to be offered professional help. Convicted sex offenders are not to be used where they are dealing with children. The guidelines, however, are characterized as voluntary.
According to the bishops' conference, there are to be agents for handling abuse cases in all 27 German dioceses. An independent agent is used in some dioceses but not others. Sometimes the public prosecutor is informed but not in all cases. It depends on each local bishop whether the telephone number is listed on church Web site for victims to call to report abuse. Helmut Schuller, the longtime head ombudsman for victims of sexual abuse in the Vienna archdiocese, said the words are well-intentioned but there needs a consistent and structured approach.
The bishops need to cooperate, said Mr. Schuller, so that an accused priests is not simply switched to another diocese. There needs to be care taken in selection of candidates to the priesthood to find out whether there are underlying problems that would grow under the cloak of celibacy.
Mr. Schuller sees three reasons why clerical abuse is happening in the Catholic Church. They are obligation of celibacy, rigid sexual morality and the authoritarian hierarchal structures of the Catholic Chruch. Celibacy can be attractive to some men who are not comfortable with their sexuality, he believes. The rigid sexual morality and high moral claims of the church sometimes make it difficult for a priest to open up to colleagues or superiors to reveal problems or seek help, he said.
Most of the crimes uncovered in recent years date back decades. Sexually abused people often take years to overcome their shame and to tell someone what happened. Some victims believe since the perpetrator was a cleric that they may not be believes because priests enjoy high moral standing.