“I am neither a victim nor a perpetrator”

Archbishop Ludwig Schick © Harald Oppitz (KNA)

Abuse of power is a taboo subject in the church. Archbishop Ludwig Schick of Bamberg has initiated a process that focuses especially on men. Men often have a harder time coming out of it after suffering abuse of power.

Interviewer: At first it sounds absurd that men should be subjected to abuse in the Catholic men's church. What is meant by abuse against men?

Archbishop Ludwig Schick (DBK Commissioner for Pastoral Care of Men): The topic of "abuse of power" has been discussed for some time in society as a whole, here in Germany, in Europe and internationally. Officials abuse their power for their lust for power, Their Greed and their Ambition. For greed for power usually stands the word "mobbing", for greed "corruption", for ambition "career addiction with elbow behavior". All this also exists in the church. But it was not or hardly discussed. Only when concrete cases of financial scandals, sexual abuse or even abuse of office arose, the topic was virulent.

Interviewer: Remains the question of the men's church!

Schick: In order to grasp the phenomenon of abuse of power by men against men in the church, it is also important to see that the church is not a men's church, especially with regard to employees and working conditions. The Catholic Church with the Protestant Church is one of the largest employers in Germany; however, most employees are women. There are also women in leading positions, for example in schools, kindergartens, also in ordinariates. There is also abuse of office among women and there is abuse of power by women against men and each other. It is also still very important to distinguish exactly what kind of abuse of power is involved and against whom. All this must not be overlooked in order to overcome the abuse of power in the church. Still, the problem of men abusing power against men in the church needs to be looked at specifically.

Interviewer: Why this own look?

Schick: The problem exists, as it does in society as a whole, that it is mostly men who hold the top positions, where power is concentrated, power being nothing bad, but necessary for functionality and task fulfillment of any company. Because it is mainly men who hold the leadership positions, men in dependent positions often do not get enough attention. Beyond the mentioned work relationships in the church, there are also associations and groups, orders and spiritual communities and others, in which men have authority and power over men. The initiative 'Abuse of power against men' wants to investigate this phenomenon and bring it to awareness. This is a matter of Boundary violation and assault, spiritual abuse and sexual violence, that men exercise against men. The inaugural event was just a first serve. More workshops and symposiums are already planned.

Interviewer: Wherever hierarchies are established, i.e., also in the extra-church sphere, there is abuse of power. What makes this so special in the church that extra conferences are held to deal with it??

Schick: As I said, it's about perceiving, judging, and acting on abuses of power in the church by men against men. First of all, once again, the problem of abuse of power by men against men is just as present in the church as it is in society at large. But there are two particularities above all: first, the "self-portrait of the Church: 'But with us it is not so. We are all brothers.' With this self-image one deceives oneself, if one does not pay attention self-critically. In the Gospel of Matthew it says: 'Then Jesus called them to him and said, "You know that the rulers oppress their peoples and the great use their authority against them. But with you it shall not be so, but whosoever will be great with you, let him be your servant." (Mt 20,25-27) and in the 23. In the first chapter of Matthew's Gospel, we read, "You shall not be called rabbi, for only one is your master, but all of you are brothers" (Matt. 23:8). These scriptural words are not Status report, but contain exhortations of Jesus to his disciples and to his churches for all times.

Interviewer: And the second peculiarity?

Send: The second reason is that men in leadership in the church derive their authority and authority from God or Jesus Christ. Moreover, they have the mission and claim to something higher and divine, the kingdom of God, the gospel, the church of Jesus Christ, etc. ADVANCE. For this they have divine authority and power. This is what makes the offices of leadership in the church so special.

On the other side are the subordinate men, who have to accept the higher authority in the spirit of following Jesus, which includes submitting, obeying, humility and also suffering. Therefore, when they are affected by abuse of power, they do not make it obvious, sometimes they are not even aware of their sufferings. If then the one strive forward and use their authority and thereby do not perceive the others in their condition and they accept everything, a fatal vicious circle arises. But this is an accumulation of power and subordination to authority that is not in accordance with the Gospel. Ministry, authority and power in the church are given by Jesus Christ. They must be inspired by the spirit of Jesus and serve the kingdom of God. The human dignity of each individual, which includes his freedom and self-determination, including his needs, is indispensable in this regard.

Interviewer: What consequences are indispensable to prevent abuse of power against men?

ChicAs I said, power must be perceived and taken seriously and is connected with every leadership office. But power must be controlled. All ministers are included in the communion of the church. This means they must be bound in teams, and there must be regular feedback. The New Testament also prescribes.

The spiritual dimension must play a role. In view of the Gospel and of Jesus, all offices and the powers associated with them must always be used only for the service of individuals and the community. Jesus' word: "I have come that they may have life and have it to the full" (Jn 10:10) must apply to all ministers. Truthfulness and transparency are required in all ministerial conduct. Ropes, male alliances and coterie – sources of abuse of power – are incompatible with the message of Jesus.

Interviewer: Where do you see a need for action on the canonical level??

Chic: Canon law prohibits abuse of power for personal advancement or careerism, ambition, and self-enrichment. However, the control mechanisms and sanctions are very much in need of development. Here the canon law must be improved. Above all, criminal law is very underdeveloped in canon law.

Interviewer: As archbishop you yourself are endowed with fullness of power. And at the same time have to bow to the word of power of the Pope, of the Vatican. So then you are both perpetrator and victim, or?

Schick: I am neither a victim nor a perpetrator! Ecclesiastical obedience is a canonical obedience between the Pope and bishops, bishops and priests, etc. and no cadaver obedience. This is often not sufficiently seen and practiced. Canonical obedience means that I am ready for tasks and offices in the church that a legitimate superior assigns to me and fulfill them as best I can. The one who demands and can demand canonical obedience – pope from a bishop, bishop from a priest, deacon from a pastoral worker(s), etc., can only demand obedience within the framework of the law, whereby morality is also indispensably to be observed. Abuse of power is a violation of the law and of morality. This also applies to pope and bishops. The canonical obedience is also a dialogical obedience. Before conferring ministries, the persons involved must talk to each other and there must also be a regular evaluation, which we call a personnel interview.

Interviewer: Is not also episcopal silence in cases in which objectively a word of power would be necessary, but it is not pronounced, an abuse of power??

Schick: Episcopal silence and silence overall, where a word of power against injustice and abuse of power would be necessary, is a violation of the law and at the same time a moral failure. This needs to be much more clearly stated in all areas of the Church. To this end, it is important to expose the pitfalls of abuse of power due to greed for power, greed and ambition, and to sharpen the instruments that prevent abuse of power. This includes canonical and moral, but also psychological and sociological measures and concrete help. In addition, good selection of ministers, constant monitoring and further training help against the abuse of power.

The interview was conducted by Marion Kruger-Hundrup.

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