An independent study conducted about the extent of child sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church of Germany, published on March 18, has exposed the appalling reality of the church. The report that led to the resignation of the Archbishop of Hamburg revealed hundreds of alleged cases of sexual abuse of children.
The 800-page report led to the resignation of the Archbishop of Hamberg and has led to a massive uproar. The report on Germany’s top diocese of Cologne found 202 alleged perpetrators of sexual assault and 314 victims between 1975 and 2018.
The Archbishop of Hamburg resigns following the publication of the report
Reports quoting Bjoern Gercke, a lawyer mandated by the church, said that the 800-page report on Germany’s top diocese cologne found 202 alleged perpetrators of sexual assault and 314 victims between 1975 and 2018. Gercke reportedly said that more than half of the victims of sexual abuse were children below 14 years of age.
The report found that the perpetrators of sexual abuses included both clergymen and laymen. The Archbishop of Hamburg, Stefari Hesse reportedly tendered his resignation to Pope Francis after the report highlighted 11 instances of breach of duty linked to allegations of abuse during his tenure as vicar general in the Cologne diocese. Hesse said that he always acted to the best of his knowledge and conscience and never participated in any cover-up.
“I am nevertheless prepared to bear my share of responsibility for the failure of the system”, he was quoted as saying.
Most of the allegations cover the tenure of Woelki’s predecessor, Cardinal Joachim Meisner, who died in 2017. Woelki had faced months of protests for refusing to allow the publication of an earlier study on abuse committed by priests in his diocese.
Two church officials suspended by Cologne’s Archbishop
Cologne’s Archbishop Rainer Maria Woelki, who was cleared in the investigation, had reportedly resisted the reform. There were protests after Woelki refused to allow the publication of an earlier study carried out by Munich Law Firm on abuse committed by church priests. He cited the privacy of accused persons as the reason for refusal. However, after the publication of the present report, he suspended two Cologne Church officials named bishop Dominikus Schwaderlapp and the head of a diocese court Guenter Assenmacher. Woelki said that they had participated in the cover-up of cases of abuse.
Woelki reportedly said that he bore some responsibility for the sexual abuse scandal. Refusing to resign, Woelki said that such a move would be a short-lived symbolic step. He, however, assured that he would do everything humanly possible to prevent sexual abuse in the Church. Terming the scale of sexual abuse in the church as ‘shocking’, the government commissioner on child sexual abuse, Johannes-Wilhelm Roerig said, “I hope that the independent investigation of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church will now be pursued to full determination and a limitless will to find the truth in all German dioceses”.
Earlier study revealing instances of sexual abuse in the Church
In 2018, an earlier study commissioned by the German Bishops’ Conference had reportedly revealed that 1,670 clergymen had committed some type of sexual abuse against 3,677 minors between 1946 and 2014. Most of these victims were minor boys. The authors of the study had claimed that the actual number of victims was much higher. Paedophile scandals in churches have been exposed in several countries including Australia, Chile, France, Ireland and the United States.
Similar shocking allegations were made earlier this month in an independent investigation carried out to examine cases of rampant child abuse across churches in France. The head of the independent enquiry commission, Jean Marc-Sauve had said that the victims of child abuse in the churches since 1950 might have been over 10,000.