The abuse scandal in Germany's Catholic Church continues to preoccupy the bishops. Most recently, Cologne's Archbishop Woelki announced a comprehensive and independent investigation into the handling of sexual abuse in the archdiocese.
Four days before the official announcement of the results of the new abuse study, Rainer Maria Cardinal Woelki on Friday announced further investigations for his archdiocese. This makes Cologne the first German diocese to take this step in response to the new abuse study.
The most important results of the so-called MHG study commissioned by the Bishops' Conference had already been published by some media last week. According to the report, in Germany between 1946 and 2014, a total of 3.677 sexual offenses by 1.670 clerics have been committed against predominantly male minors.
With regard to the archdiocese of Cologne, Cardinal Woelki reckons with "very painful" results. Nevertheless, it should be clarified "unadorned and without false considerations". An external institution will be commissioned for this purpose, Woelki said.
"Name failure and guilt"
"The clarification of how we acted in cases of sexualized violence and what mistakes were made is of paramount importance," the cardinal continued. "That is why we want to name failures and guilt that those responsible for the archdiocese may have brought upon themselves".
In addition to the shameful realization that representatives of the church had done harm to many people, he said, it was particularly bad to see that many people have now become so indifferent to the church "that they don't even get upset about it now. Here, too, the reappraisal must begin, if we want to set new signs and impulses".
At its plenary meeting on 24. to 27. September in Fulda, the German bishops want to discuss further consequences for the processing of the abuse cases. The study on sexual abuse of minors by clergy in the area of the German Bishops' Conference should help to face the responsibility, to regain lost trust and to initiate necessary changes.
Cardinal Marx criticizes quarrels and striving for power in the church
Reinhard Cardinal Marx criticized quarrels and striving for power in the church at a service with spiritual communities on Saturday. Whether he was also alluding to the current cases of abuse? "What a spectacle the history of the Church sometimes presents! A spectacle of strife and annoyance," the president of the German Bishops' Conference said in Munich over the weekend.
He spoke of "jealousy and wars" and a "competition for power and truth". The members of the church are themselves responsible if the message of the Gospel is not received and the church remains "unsuccessful". "The problem is us," said the Munich archbishop.
Marx called on the faithful to follow the example of Jesus, to make themselves small "like a child" and from this perspective to implement the Good News: "This is what the Church needs again and again from anew."The cardinal made his comments at a service with spiritual communities.
Challenge not evaded
Last week, Cardinal Marx had spoken more concretely on the subject of abuse at a service for the Archdiocese's Priests Day. "It is not easy to talk about it, but we must not avoid the challenge." Those responsible in the church would have to "look, listen and draw consequences – this will be a painful process".
In addition to many positive sides, one must look at the dark, he said. "Sin and violence run through the history of the Church," explained Cardinal. This would be visible by the new study again with full force.
Archbishop Burger: church has failed
Archbishop Stephan Burger also spoke out on the subject of abuse. In his eyes, the church has failed: "The church has a debt to those affected that it cannot deny, that it cannot shake off," Burger said Sunday in Freiburg Cathedral.
The church can only come to terms with this "if those affected, who were hurt, humiliated and broken by these acts, also want to do so". The church has nothing to claim here and can do nothing undone. The Catholic Church can only ask for forgiveness itself, and in all humility and modesty, Burger emphasized: "Here we have failed as a church – those responsible as well as the perpetrators."
Bishop Ipolt fasts in solidarity with abuse victims
The Bishop of Gorlitz, Wolfgang Ipolt, also reacted to the abuse in the Catholic Church with an unusual step. He wants to be on 5. October with a day of fasting to "express his solidarity with the victims," as he let it be known on Sunday in all services of the diocese of Gorlitz. "This should be a sign of atonement for the sins of the church's employees," Ipolt explained. In addition, he said, on that day he would "especially celebrate Holy Mass for the healing of all those affected by abuse, but also for the perpetrators".
Facts should be "neither excused nor glossed over," Ipolt stressed. "When priests, religious and pastoral workers, who are in the service of the Gospel, grossly abuse the trust that people place in them, that is a flagrant sin." It was also shameful "that the victims of such abuse were often not heard or not believed". The study proves "that the institution church should be protected more than the people who were abused by assault, sexual acts and violence.". The bishop asked "the victims of any abuse for forgiveness.
Ipolt ared church members that in the future, cases of sexual abuse "will be consistently punished according to state and church laws". He emphasized that the diocese has already done a lot in the prevention of sexual abuse and continues to do so. "At the same time, I know that most priests and pastoral workers in the church in Germany are doing their service faithfully and truthfully," Ipolt said. He opposed "exposing every employee to suspicion or prejudgement".