“We want to get to the bottom of the truth”

The bishops want to further investigate the cases of abuse within the Catholic Church with two research projects. "In order to better understand how the monstrosities of sexual abuse by clergy and church employees could occur," Bishop Ackermann of Trier said.

After the first step of the reappraisal was about concrete help for the victims, the scientific work can now be intensified, said Ackermann. "In the meantime, the number of reports of victims has also decreased significantly, so that the timing seems appropriate to scientifically review the available data and facts."Ackermann is the representative of the German Bishops' Conference for ies related to sexual abuse of minors in the church sector.

"Experiencing the church as a safe place"
When presenting the research projects, Bishop Ackermann emphasized that the bishops are not interested in stopping at what has been reported by people who have become victims. "We also want to get to the truth that may still lie undiscovered in files from past decades. On the other hand, we want to use scientific research not only to produce formal statistics and figures, but also to conduct causal research with the help of independent experts in order to better understand how the monstrosities of sexual abuse by clerics and church employees could occur. We want to learn even more for prevention. After completion of the two investigations, we will review the church's existing prevention concept and, if necessary, make additions," said Ackermann. "We will do everything in our power to prevent sexual abuse as effectively as we can. Children and young people as well as their parents and guardians should experience the church as a positive and safe place."

Nine representative dioceses from 1945 to 2010 in the bli
The first research project, "The sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests, deacons and male religious in the area of the German Bishops' Conference," is being conducted under the direction of Christian Pfeiffer by the Kriminologisches Forschungsinstitut Niedersachsen e. V. carried out. Pfeiffer named five goals for the project: to obtain reliable figures, to come to terms with the events from the point of view of the victims, to analyze the actions of the perpetrators, to examine the behavior of the Catholic Church toward perpetrators and victims, and to review the existing prevention concept. Methodologically, a longitudinal analysis of the abuse in nine selected dioceses from 1945 to 2010 is being carried out, as well as a cross-sectional analysis in the other 18 dioceses from 2000 to 2010. "Limiting the in-depth drilling to one in three dioceses is recommended because it is not expected that an area-wide data collection extending over 65 years will yield better findings in comparison," Pfeiffer said.

The cross-sectional analysis makes it possible, he said, to examine the impact of the guidelines on the church's handling of cases of sexual abuse that came into force in 2002 by the German Bishops' Conference. When collecting the data, the institute will not be granted any direct insight into personnel files for reasons of data protection and personal privacy laws. The data are collected by archive staff resp. trained lawyers and only then transmitted with the help of a survey form to the institute for evaluation.

Second project analyzes perpetrator personalities
The second research project is the responsibility of Norbert Leygraf, Director of the Institute for Forensic Psychiatry at the University of Essen-Duisburg. The project "Sexual assaults by clergy in the Catholic Church in Germany – analysis of psychiatric-psychological expert reports" is intended to provide a comprehensive picture of perpetrator personalities with a qualitative and quantitative analysis of expert reports. Biographical contexts will play a role, as well as the situation and processes of the accused sexual acts and characteristics of the victims. "From the results, predictors of danger moments for sexual abuse acts are to be identified and prevention possibilities derived," explained Prof. Leygraf.

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