Globe Echo [London, England]
January 17, 2023
By David Sadler
It is the day of balancing in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising: What has happened since the sensational Munich abuse report was published a year ago? The archdiocese takes a position on this today.
Many who were abused by Catholic clergymen as children or young people find that too little has happened. One of them is Rolf Fahnenbruck, who experienced severe sexualized violence as a child in the diocese of Essen and now lives in the diocese of Passau. He is the spokesman for the local Advisory Board.
So far, he has been compensated for his suffering with 25,000 euros. But it’s not about the money, he says in an interview BR24. Because even with the performance notice, a person affected by abuse is alone again with his problem. “You can’t treat people like that,” says Fahnenbruck. “Many people are immensely disappointed in the Catholic Church.”
Affected people feel alone
All in all, those affected criticize the basic logic of the recognition procedure, according to which the victims have to take care of everything themselves in order to get their rights. Richard Kick, spokesman for the Advisory Board for Affected Persons of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, criticizes that it is still “completely intransparent” for those affected as to why they receive benefits and how much BR24.
When it comes to submitting an application, those affected are completely on their own. The same applies to requests for access to files. “This fight: Can I look at the files? This week and month-long wait to see if it gets approved or not, that’s unbearable,” describes Kick.
Many are waiting for an apology
In the run-up to today’s press conference, initiatives by those affected made it clear where they also see a need to catch up: Many still want a personal apology from Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Kick says.
After all, after the publication of the Munich report, he emphasized that he saw himself as having institutional responsibility. The report only had personnel consequences for the vicar general in Munich at the time, Prelate Lorenz Wolf, who was responsible for personnel. As a result of the publication, he resigned as the chief church judge of the Archdiocese and as head of the Bavarian Catholic Office.
Misconduct in dealing with suspected cases
The Munich law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl (WSW) had examined in the extensive report how those responsible in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising had been dealing with cases of suspected abuse by church employees since 1945.
The conclusion: Several responsible persons in the administration of the Archdiocese have behaved incorrectly in dealing with cases of abuse in the past decades and thus “assisted in sexual abuse”. Specifically, the report found misconduct in dealing with abusers by the Archbishop of Munich and Freising, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, as well as by his two predecessors, Cardinal Friedrich Wetter and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the recently deceased Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. For example, Cardinal Reinhard Marx acted incorrectly or at least inappropriately in three cases when suspected cases of abuse became known to him.
Archdiocese seeks contact with those affected
The Archdiocese has not remained inactive since the publication of these facts. Those affected were heard at several events, there were art projects and a day of encounters with those affected. In the Upper Bavarian community of Unterwössen, where a priest had abused children and young people decades ago, a dedicated memorial was set up to commemorate the abuse and the suffering of the victims.
In fact, the current management of the Munich diocese administration noticeably supports the cooperation with the Advisory Board for Affected Persons, says Kick from the Munich Advisory Board for Affected Persons. 57 new cases have been reported to the Archdiocese’s commissioners since the abuse report. Some of these are cases that have already become known through media reports.
Contacts in all dioceses in Bavaria
In addition, there is now a hotline that those affected can contact with their story. The contact points of all Bavarian dioceses are now working together in a network. In Munich, those affected also have their own pastor who has experienced abuse himself. A Bavaria-wide state ombudsman for victims of abuse, as many victims would like, does not yet exist, for example.
Affected people are demanding a state investigation
In the past, the Free State had emphasized several times that the responsibility for dealing with cases of abuse in the church context lay with the churches. But at least CSU Minister of Justice Georg Eisenreich was open to the idea of a Bavarian state ombudsman at a meeting with those affected in Munich recently.
A nationwide offer of help for those affected by abuse is needed, Kick demands from the Munich Advisory Council for Affected Persons: “That those affected do not have to go to Munich or the big city to get help.” The state must also face up to its responsibilities. “It is specifically about the state opening the books and archives and allowing people to look inside.” It is about possible failures in the 1950s and 1960s in the supervision of homes and schools.
Wetter, Ratzinger and the case of Peter H.
Cardinal Friedrich Wetter, Cardinal Marx’s predecessor in office at the Munich bishopric (1982 to 2008), was also incriminated by the WSW report a year ago because of his handling of suspected cases of abuse: In 21 cases he was wrong in law, or at least inappropriately dealt with suspected cases.
According to Wetter, the allegation of incorrect behavior did not stand up in one of the cases. In a letter, Wetter admitted “inappropriate and objectively incorrect behavior” in dealing with suspected abuse and a lack of awareness of the problem. In his statement, Wetter referred in particular to the case of the priest and repeat offender Peter H. During Wetter’s tenure, despite a final conviction by the Ebersberg district court, he had been reinstated in a parish.
The late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who was Wetter’s predecessor as Archbishop of Munich and Freising (1977 to 1982), did not apologize for personal misconduct in dealing with abusers, unlike Wetter. Although he was also charged accordingly by the report: In five cases of suspected abuse that became known to him, he did not deal with the rules in accordance with the rules. According to a statement by the Pope Emeritus, the allegation of improper handling remained in four cases. However, Ratzinger had his lawyers explain that he did not know about Peter H.’s personal details.
Are ex-archbishops Wetter and Ratzinger liable?
The way the former Archbishops of Munich dealt with the Peter H. case is still the concern of the judiciary: According to his own statement, Andreas Perr was abused by the priest Peter H. at the age of twelve in Garching an der Alz. By means of a damage assessment action at the Traunstein District Court, he wants to have it clarified by a court of law whether the former Munich archbishops are also fundamentally liable for the damage that their priests have caused through the sexual abuse of minors, even if the crimes have already become statute-barred.
In the focus of the civil proceedings: In addition to the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, Wetter and Ratzinger, the former archbishops. The Archdiocese could assert in the proceedings that the deeds that are at stake are statute-barred. But it could also do without a corresponding “objection of the statute of limitations” – as did the Cologne Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki in the case of a claim for damages by a victim of abuse.
Archdiocese wants to insist on the statute of limitations
According to a letter from the archbishopric’s office to the plaintiff’s lawyer, br and the research network “CORRECTIV”, the Archdiocese wants to insist on the statute of limitations. According to further available documents, the proceedings are suspended until a legal successor to the deceased Pope Emeritus is found.