One in three Catholic religious orders faces abuse allegations, according to recent survey. The victims' advisory council of the Archdiocese of Cologne is massively critical: the process of coming to terms with the past is dragging on and the victims are not the focus of attention.
Interviewer: How do you see these current results of the survey in the good 390 religious congregations in Germany?
Karl Haucke (spokesman for the Advisory Board for the Clarification of Sexualized Violence in the Archdiocese of Cologne): First of all: If I am asked nowadays if there is something that hurts me or – as the experts say – what retraumatizes me, I have to say: It is not the abuse experiences of other victims or their lifelong health consequences. It is exactly such announcements from the ecclesiastical area, like now the publication of the questioning results of the German order upper conference (DOK).
Interviewer: What is it about this that concerns you so much?
Haucke: The report is dripping with self-pity. No opportunity is missed to remind how old, weak and poor the religious congregations are. When the victims of sexual violence are mentioned, they are named as victims, without remembering that we were once small, weak children when we were raped and violated.
Interviewer: That is, you see more that the perpetrators are put in the center and not the victims?
Haucke: In the collation of the results, the authors of these survey results are most certainly more concerned with themselves than with us.
Interviewer: There are, after all, critics who accuse the orders of delaying a comprehensible reappraisal.
Haucke: I agree. Most of the measures proposed in this report could have been addressed years ago. But one had to do with warding off the truth and coming up with tricky variations on it.
Interviewer: The abuse commissioner of the German Bishops' Conference, Bishop Stephan Ackermann, says a more unified approach to dealing with abuse should be supported. Because every order, every diocese, every Catholic institution is somehow still doing its own thing. Would you agree with Bishop Ackermann??
Haucke: Yes, in any case. It is absolutely necessary. It must not be the case that every diocese deals differently with the requirements of the reappraisal and also with the requirements of the compensations. And it must not be the case that the religious orders continue to disengage, as was already the case with the MHG study of the German Bishops' Conference.
This unity of approach presupposes, of course, that the members of the orders first realize that this whole ie concerns them. The survey revealed: Three quarters of the 260 religious congregations that responded to the corresponding questions have no institutional protection concepts. This includes 41 religious congregations that have regular contact with subjects of protection, that is, minors or even adults. Such numbers, however small the orders may be, do not speak for a great insight.
Interviewer: That is, it is not only about the past, but also about the present.
Haucke: That is how it is.
Interviewer: Now that the survey of religious orders has been completed, do you expect anything more to come?? Or is that the last still split off reappraisal??
Haucke: Basically I can't say anything about that. I have no new information from the religious orders either. But we still have to wait for the 27 dioceses to come to terms with the situation. At the moment the commissions are being formed, as far as one can find those affected for it. Of course, at some point there will be 27 reports. Unfortunately, I must say, in such a fragmented form.
Interviewer: Cardinal Woelki has promised the Archdiocese of Cologne an unsparing clarification by an independent law firm. The announced press conference has been postponed. That process seems to be stalled at the moment. How do you see that?
Haucke: Of course, it falters, that is perceptible for everyone. We, as the advisory board of the archdiocese, have written to Cardinal Woelki in recent months and asked: What is the status?? He then also came to a meeting of the advisory board and explained the facts. And he rightly could not and did not want to give a timeframe for when the results of this study can be expected. Because he said: Then I give you now a date, and then it hangs again somewhere, and they are disappointed again. He wanted to avoid that.
Interviewer: Was it there also once again about why this is delayed for so long?
Haucke: There are concerns about the right of expression. So, somebody is against it that something certain is said. And whether the concerns can be eliminated at all – I can't foresee it. I am also not a lawyer.
Interviewer: If you try again to draw a very short balance: A good ten years ago, the first cases of abuse within the church came to light. And one is now with the reappraisal, which was promised in many places, still not finished. Why does it take so long, in your eyes?
Haucke: You can actually let that roll off your tongue: It's been almost eleven years since this abuse became known in Germany and around the world. The DOK report has eleven pages. In the end, this means that the orders have allowed themselves a year for each page of their reconnaissance report. Of course, this is only correct from a purely mathematical point of view. But it is a reflection of the delays, a reflection of the unwillingness, with which the religious orders have approached this subject. It is tedious, of course, it also hurts within the orders. And it also hurts to say to the public: We have failed – as clergy, as helpers, as caretakers of children.
Interviewer: The statements of the regret or the excuses and the failure expressions are the one. But what is the state of affairs regarding the payments for the recognition of the suffering??
Haucke: In the 50s and 60s, there was always a small figure in churches during Advent. It's not politically correct to say it that way today, but the historical truth at the time was that it was a little missionary money box, formerly called a "Nickneger," that always nodded its head when you put a coin in it.
I feel the need to tell the people in charge again and again: We are not small, head-nodding "little negroes" who nod obediently when they are asked or when an offering is made to them. We are victims of crimes that were committed by consecrated Christians and were protected and spared afterwards by consecrated Christians as well. This responsibility must finally be recognized.
Interviewer: But you, as victims, are now not only in the role of saying: injustice happened to us and we are now withdrawing. You are the spokesman for the advisory council for victims of sexualized violence in the archdiocese of Cologne. Where do you stand as an advisor?
Hauke: We, of course, as the affected persons' advisory board of the archdiocese, have not yet had the opportunity to exchange views: What does this new study of the orders mean for us? We have to think about that first. But as a matter of principle, it is often the case after such events – as it is after every bishops' conference – that those affected contact us. They call us, they ask us, and even ask: When can I collect my money?? That will certainly be one of the first consequences to follow now.
Interviewer: Let's turn briefly to the question of what you actually expect from politics.
Hauke: The orders were allowed to do pretty much what they wanted to do. You maintain schools, homes, boarding schools, institutions for children and youth welfare. These are all corporations under public law with all the advantages that one enjoys in such a corporation. And it is finally time for the state to intervene in a certain way.
In concrete terms: I have a demand that the Bundestag form a commission – we used to call it the Truth Commission – that deals specifically with coming to terms with the sexual abuse of children and young people by members of Catholic religious orders.
The interview was conducted by Uta Vorbrodt.