“We have to get to the deep roots”

In Germany, the Catholic academies have united thematically. You want to discuss the causes of the abuse crisis and also look for options for the future. Is this a form of the "synodal way"??

Interviewer: Now we may have another new case of abuse coming to light. A former Vatican diplomat, who now lives in the diocese of Eichstatt, is said to have sexually harassed a priest under his authority during his time in office in Rome. How is it for you when you hear such reports?

Prelate Dr. Peter Klasvogt (Chairman of the Academy Leaders' Circle of German Catholic Academies): The anger is huge and the first thing that came to my mind is, "The truth will set you free".

Covering up and hiding are of no use at all. Especially when there is obviously resilient material, I wonder why it is taking so long. With Pope Francis, an ecclesiastical leader is actually taking action. This really needs to be pushed forward.

Interviewer: At the top, of course, this is always an ie. At their plenary assembly, the German bishops also decided to address the ies of sexual morality and priestly lifestyles in a concrete way within the framework of a so-called "synodal way". Do you have the feeling that everyone is really pursuing a reappraisal??

Klasvogt: Good, I was not present at the bishops' conference. But you just notice the public prere to actually address things. I see positive efforts on the part of both the bishops and the church leaders of the individual dioceses to continue to come to terms with the situation and to really call a spade a spade. In this respect, I find it important when the bishops themselves also speak of "systemic threats". They say there are three areas: Dealing with power, sexual morality and the priestly way of life. That's when the MHG study (study "Sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests, deacons and male religious in the area of the German Bishops' Conference", note. d. Red.) also gave him a few things to think about. I believe we should approach this in an offensive and positive way.

Interviewer: But these are all just words so far. What specifically do you demand and what must happen?

Klasvogt: It was simply important to us that we not only let the bishops consult behind closed doors. But we also want to take these ies seriously and address them, and we offer ourselves as a forum for discussion, for debate, and also for controversy. But we also offer ourselves to work out concrete perspectives, and we approach the bishops' conferences and the universal church with proposals.

Interviewer: Do you have any concrete examples? What that can be?

Klasvogt: When we talk about sexual abuse, there is also the question of how actually the power structures are in the church that something like this can happen at all? I believe that these are the deeper roots that we need to address. The pope has also been talking about "clericalism" a lot lately. These are actually not new things. Since the Council 50 years ago, we have been talking about a ministry of the priest. We are aware of all this, but it has basically not reached the minds or just too little. I think we have to take an offensive approach here.

Interviewer: As you have already said, you also offer discussion events. That means that everyone is addressed and asked?

Klasvogt: Yes, we said that every academy should really open up the spaces.

We also invite those affected, those accused and, above all, experts from the field of psychology and, for example, also from the field of canon law, who are familiar with this study. Likewise, church leaders of the individual dioceses are also present. We have to take up and work on these ies in a concerted action, on the ground, not just somewhere on a meta-level.

The interview was conducted by Verena Troster.

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