Abuse in the church has been encouraged by a "secrecy in the system," according to Freiburg theologian Magnus Striet. Victims of abuse are often children and adolescents "with an ecclesiastical milieu".
"A sacralized understanding of office has allowed a secrecy to form in the system that has massively encouraged abuse," Striet told the internet portal catholic.de in Bonn.
Office and trust
"Abusers from the clergy have gained access to children and adolescents because the office and the figure of the priest were so highly stylized and at the same time endowed with trust that there was no suspicion at all that there might be something quite different behind the contact with children," Striet said. In earlier times, he said, many people didn't even consider "that priestly sexuality could play a role in contexts such as catechesis, boarding school or even youth ministry".
Because of a taboo on the subject, however, "the very space was created in which priests could act out sexual needs in this terrible way," the theologian said. "Today, all bishops and those responsible in the dioceses, at least in this country, are concerned with preventive measures so that abuse is prevented whenever possible."
"Taboo not yet ended"
A taboo on the subject of sexuality in the realm of the church is far from over, "at least at the level of its leadership," Striet further criticized, "And one also seems unwilling to even think about the understanding of ministry and the church under the auspices of the abuse scandal."
Striet also commented on the task of theology in light of the investigation of abuse cases. "Theology has no methodological approaches of its own when it comes to the psychiatric analysis of victims and perpetrators." But it could "look at its own history and check whether there are theology concepts that have favored that Christians – and we are talking mainly about office bearers – became and become perpetrators".
His impression is that moral theology is concerned about the ie. Overall, Striet explained, theology can "enlighten historically and thus contribute to understanding under which historical conditions certain theological ideas arose".