German Bishops Set out Rules to Stop Sexual Abuse

September 23, 2010

German Catholic bishops Thursday set out new rules to help prevent clergy from abusing children, following scandals across Europe.

They aim "to sensitize and empower all those working in the church environment to recognize evidence of sexual abuse and to deal with it in an appropriate fashion," said Stephan Ackermann, archbishop of Trier and the bishops' point man on sexual abuse of children within the church.

They require all 27 German Catholic diocese to give employees strict rules on how to maintain an appropriate level of "close distance" between other staff and children and young people in their trust, the bishops said.

Diocese must also thoroughly check the police records of employees; establish both internal and external routes for advice and complaints; and improve hiring procedures and the training of new employees with the issue of sexual abuse in mind.

Each bishop must also name an "abuse representative" who can take the lead within the diocese for all matters relating to the issue of sexual abuse.

The bishops also raised the possibility of compensating victims financially.

''We are prepared to step in financially in terms of therapy costs and in terms also of acknowledging what's happened, but it will also depend on what the round table decides," said Robert Zollitsch, head of the German Bishops' Conference.

The round table brings together representatives of the government, church, victims groups and other parties to discuss issue of child abuse.

It next meets on September 30 in Berlin.

Thursday's conference took place in Fulda, about 50 miles northeast of Frankfurt.

Hundreds of people have come forward in Germany recently saying they were abused by priests, mirroring a recent pattern in Ireland, the Netherlands, Austria and Belgium.


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