Justitia figure © Sebboy12 (shutterstock)
148 cases from the Catholic abuse study have examined prosecutors in Bavaria. Remaining was an indictment, which was heard on Thursday in Bad Kissingen. In the end, the judge imposed a suspended sentence.
Because of the sexual abuse of a Ministrantin now a catholic priest stood before a jury court under the presidency of judge Reinhard Oberndorfer. This sentenced him to a suspended sentence of one year and four months and a fine of 1.200 euros. What started as a crush by the then ten-year-old girl turned into hugs, a French kiss and petting in the woods two years later, at least that's how the judge caught it. The verdict is not yet legally binding. The defense had asked for acquittal.
What really happened?
What really happened ten years ago is known only to the now 22-year-old woman and the 43-year-old clergyman. In addition, the statements of those affected changed again and again. In March 2019, she stated to the police that nothing had happened. Only from her 18. She had had a sexual relationship with the priest since the age of six. This is also how he presented it in court on Thursday. The proceedings had therefore previously been suspended.
Later, however, the woman had testified to the diocese of Wurzburg and the police that there had been sexual acts by the priest, during which he had also penetrated her body with a finger. According to the penal code, this would be a serious sexual abuse. But the evidence could not be produced before the district court. The woman changed her statement there again and stated that this had only taken place at a much later point in time. In the winter of 2010, only she had performed sexual acts on the priest.
In her plea, defense attorney Gerda Staude called the victim "untrustworthy". Prosecutor Isabell Simon pointed out that it had been difficult in court to "get something out of the witness that incriminates the defendant.". The woman still believes in a common future. She had testified that she did not feel abused. She had been in love with the man.
In his verdict, the judge pointed out that the proceedings had not started with the witness. Rather, there had already been indications from the school in 2011 about a special relationship of the chaplain to the girl, whereby there had been no talk of sexual acts. Based on the reports, the diocese advised the priest in 2011 to break off contact.
Investigations by the public prosecutor's office began in the fall of 2018 after the abuse study by the German Bishops' Conference was published. At that time, in the aftermath, all seven Bavarian dioceses had given files on the listed cases to the judiciary. From the 148 preliminary investigations and inquiries that resulted from the files for Bavaria, the case of the former chaplain was the only one that came before the court.
In the reasoning for the sentence, the judge emphasized that the priest had been confronted with a situation "with which he was visibly overwhelmed" by the altar girl's crushes and advances. But he also let it escalate.
Whether the clergyman will appeal or appeal, is open. In addition, there will be a canonical procedure that takes into account the judgment of the district court. February ban on priestly ministry remains in place, diocese said. "In the name of the diocese, Bishop Franz Jung deeply regrets the abuse and the suffering of the victim."