A new start

The German Bishops' Conference has relaunched the research project on the sexual abuse of minors. At the beginning of the year, the cooperation with criminologist Christian Pfeiffer had been terminated.

The research project on sexual abuse decided by the Catholic German Bishops' Conference will be re-advertised. This decision was made by the bishops at the most recent meeting of the Permanent Council, as announced by the Bishops' Conference in Bonn on Wednesday. The planned study entitled "Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests, Deacons and Male Religious in the Area of the German Bishops' Conference" is now an "Interdisciplinary Research Network Project.

Reliable figures are now to be collected again and perpetrator strategies, victim experience and institutional aspects are to be examined. The findings are to be incorporated into prevention work.

The new attempt had become necessary after the Bishops' Conference terminated its cooperation with the Criminological Research Institute of Lower Saxony in January 2013. The Catholic Church justified this step by saying that there was no longer any basis for cooperation with the head of the institute, Christian Pfeiffer. The criminologist, on the other hand, accused the church of wanting to exercise censorship and control his research.

The "Trierischer Volksfreund" (Thursday) said the abuse commissioner of the Bishops' Conference, Trier's Bishop Stephan Ackermann, that the bishops would provide all the files needed for the study, which has now been put out to tender again – including those from the so-called secret archives.

Important stages in the history of the abuse scandal

January 2010: The then head of the Jesuit Canisius College in Berlin, Father Klaus Mertes, sets the ball rolling on uncovering the abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.

22. February 2010: Bishops apologize at their plenary assembly in Freiburg over abuse cases. Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier becomes special representative for abuse cases. A hotline for abuse victims is set up.

31. August 2010: Bishops tighten their "guidelines on how to deal with sexual abuse".

20. September 2010: Archbishop Robert Zollitsch proposes a "broad process of reflection" by bishops, priests and laity at the plenary assembly of bishops in Fulda, Germany.

23. September 2010: The bishops present a concept for preventing sexual abuse. Among other things, it stipulates that each of the

27 dioceses set up an office to deal with prevention ies.

30. September 2010: The Bishops' Conference presents a concept for the compensation of victims of sexual abuse at the Round Table in Berlin. This includes the payment of a sum of money to be considered "financial recognition" of the suffering inflicted.

8. July 2011: In Mannheim, the Bishops' Conference launches its nationwide dialogue process.

13. July 2011: German bishops announce two research projects to scientifically come to terms with sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

7. December 2012: The results of the first research project are presented. The director of the Institute for Forensic Psychiatry at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Norbert Leygraf, concludes that Catholic priests who have abused minors are rarely pedophiles in a clinical sense.

31. December 2012: The Bishops' Conference discontinues the hotline for victims of abuse because there were hardly any inquiries left. The offer was supposed to end in April, but had been extended.

The church, however, wants to continue offering counseling.

9. January 2013: Bishops' Conference ends cooperation with criminologist Christian Pfeiffer, but plans to continue second scientific study with other partners.

28. August 2013: The bishops retender the study as a "research network project".

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