Report on sex abuse in Germany’s Protestant Church documents at least 2,225 victims

Associated Press [New York NY]

January 25, 2024

By Kirsten Grieshaber

At least 1,259 people working for the Protestant Church of Germany have committed sexual abuse in the last decades and at least 2,225 victims were affected by the abuse according to an independent report published Thursday.

The numbers are based on the study of documents and files from the regional churches and the Lutherans’ diaconal relief and social welfare organization, known as Diakonie.

However, the authors said they were not able to analyze the personnel files of all pastors and deacons within the church, but primarily disciplinary files. They estimated that the real number of perpetrators is much higher, with nearly 3,500 people who have committed sexual abuse, German news agency dpa reported.

“It’s the tip of the tip of the iceberg,” said Martin Wazlawik from Hannover University, who coordinated the study on sexualized violence in the Protestant Church in Germany.

The church commissioned the study in 2020 and financed it with 3.6 million euros ($3.92 million), with the goal of analyzing structures within the church that promote violence and abuse of power. As an umbrella organization of 20 regional churches, the EKD represents 19.2 million Protestant Christians in Germany.

At the presentation of the study in Hannover, the head of the Council of the Protestant Church in Germany, also known as EKD, apologized to the victims “wholeheartedly.”

“As an institution, we have also been guilty of countless crimes against countless people,” Hamburg Bishop Kirsten Fehrs said, adding that she was “deeply shocked” by the overall picture presented by the study.

“Ever since I have been dealing with this topic, I have been sincerely shaken by the abysmal violence that has been inflicted on so many people in our church,” Fehrs said, adding that the church would accept the results of the study “with humility.”

This report comes several years after Germany’s Catholic Church published staggering numbers on sexual abuse by its clergy.

In 2018, a church-commissioned report concluded that at least 3,677 people were abused by Catholic clergy in Germany between 1946 and 2014. More than half the victims were 13 or younger, and nearly a third served as altar boys.