Members of abuse commission in German diocese resign, citing lack of transparency

Crux [Denver CO]

April 25, 2024

Two of the three independent abuse commissioners of the Catholic Diocese of Augsburg are resigning on April 30, according to the Augsburger Allgemeine.

Psychologists Angelika Hauser and Rupert Membarth told the German newspaper that they no longer see a basis for further cooperation in the interests of those affected by abuse.

Hauser and Membarth were made abuse commissioners in September 2022.

“Unfortunately, to this day I have not been able to recognize that the process of coming to terms with sexual abuse in the Diocese of Augsburg, which Bishop Bertram once described as his ‘matter of the heart,’ is being pursued with the necessary seriousness and genuine desire to educate,” Hauser said in a letter to the diocese.

A letter from Membarth says he “cannot see any committed effort on the part of the diocese leadership to proactively deal with past and present cases of sexual violence.”

Hauser made the same claim.

“I have not yet been able to see that the investigation into sexual abuse in the diocese of Augsburg … is being carried out with the necessary seriousness and a real desire to educate,” Hauser said, according to the Augsburger Allgemeine.

Last August, Hauser publicly criticized the “lip service paid by diocesan leaders without any actionable consequences.”

In one case, she said she discovered an attempt at a cover-up within the Church, where the accused priest wanted to settle the case with a financial deal with the victim. The diocese says it didn’t try to cover-up the issue.

Membarth said he cannot see any committed effort on the part of the diocese leadership to proactively deal with past and present cases of sexual violence.

In November, Membarth criticized the abuse study started for the diocese by researchers from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, which he called “inadequate.”

He said it was – as intended – very important to examine the psychological consequences of sexual violence. At the same time, however, “transparency must be established about past misconduct by perpetrators and those responsible in the Diocese of Augsburg.”

Membarth demanded that names be mentioned, including those of bishops.

When asked on Tuesday by the German newspaper, the Diocese of Augsburg said it was a “surprising step” by the abuse commissioners.

“The Diocese of Augsburg regrets the resignation of Ms. Hauser and Mr. Membarth and thanks them for the extraordinarily demanding work they have done so far,” the diocese statement said.

“However, we firmly reject the allegation that the diocese of Augsburg lacks a genuine, proactive desire to educate,” saying the issue has been “taken very seriously and meticulously handled” by those responsible.

The third abuse commissioner, the lawyer Andreas Hatzung, told the Augsburger Allgemeine that he regrets the resignations of Hauser and Membarth.

“But I can essentially understand their criticism. I still see myself as being able to carry out my task as an independent contact person,” he told the German newspaper.

According to Augsburger Allgemeine‘s Daniel Wirsching, the fact that two of the Augsburg diocese’s three independent abuse commissioners are quitting “casts a bad light on its willingness to come to terms with it – and on Bishop Bertram Meier.”

“The fact that the clarification and processing of cases of abuse within the ranks of the Catholic Church is still not going as it should, could and, above all, should – that is bitter, especially for those affected,” said in the German newspaper.

In 2017, Marie Collins – a prominent survivor of clerical sex abuse from Ireland – resigned from a special Vatican commission that was created by Pope Francis, citing continued problems in creating rules for the safety of children and vulnerable adults.