“A church-historical classification”

Paderborn Cathedral © Olga Koverninska (shutterstock)

The archdiocese of Paderborn is having an independent study conducted into cases of abuse in its area. The three-year project focuses on the tenures of former archbishops Lorenz Jaeger and Joachim Degenhardt.

The project is led by church historian Nicole Priesching, as the University of Paderborn announced on Thursday.

Under the title "Abuse in the Archdiocese of Paderborn – An ecclesiastical-historical classification", the team of researchers focuses on the terms of office of former archbishops Lorenz Jaeger and Joachim Degenhardt from 1941 to 2002.

Unrestricted access to files ared

The study will provide insights into the extent of abuse by priests and how those responsible deal with it. The consequences of sexual violence and impact on victims' lives will also be investigated, according to the report.

Paderborn vicar general Alfons Hardt has ared researchers of unrestricted access to files.

Priesching and her colleague Christine Hartig are not subject to any directives from the archdiocese and are independent in shaping their work, he stressed. "We want to gain a holistic understanding of the processes, attitudes and conditions of the past and incorporate the findings into our intervention and prevention work."

Study leader Priesching, who holds the chair of religious and church history at the University of Paderborn, said, "It is important to find out which circles of people within the church knew about abuse cases, how decisions were made about taking or not taking further action, and whether structural conditions existed that could encourage acts of abuse."

Setting up an advisory council for those affected

In addition to analyzing administrative sources from church and state archives, including personnel and criminal records, they said interviews with eyewitnesses will also be conducted. In the coming months, a corresponding public call is planned. An affected persons' advisory council is also to be set up in the course of the trial, it was said.

In 2018, the German bishops had published a study on sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. According to the study, between 1946 and 2014, 1.670 clerics have committed crimes against minors. In April, the 27 bishops had agreed with the abuse commissioner of the federal government, Johannes-Wilhelm Rorig, on a further processing of the abuse in the dioceses. With Paderborn, nine other dioceses have already commissioned a study.

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