“Data does not apply”

Dom St. Martin in Rottenburg © Uwe Renz (Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart)

The vicar general of the Rottenburg-Stuttgart diocese has contradicted a new study according to which the number of acts of abuse has not fallen. A further differentiation of the results is necessary.

The diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart has contradicted the new study on abuse allegations against Catholic priests with regard to its own figures. The data presented by the research team around the Mannheim psychiatrist Harald Drebing, according to which the rate of abuse allegations has not decreased in recent times, is clearly not true, at least for the own diocese, said Vicar General Clemens Stroppel on Thursday. A further differentiation of the research results is necessary.

Stroppel presented figures on the 181 known acts of abuse and accusations against clergy members diocese-wide. According to the study, there were the most cases in the 1960s with 59, in the 1970s there were 29, in the 1980s 33 abuse allegations or acts.

Declining numbers in the diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart

Since then, the number of cases has declined significantly, with diocesan statistics documenting 16 cases for the 1990s, 11 cases for the 2000s, and 6 acts of abuse since 2010. The most recent cases were from 2011 and 2014, where there had been accusations against a priest in each case. He said there had been no new indications of sexual abuse since 2015.

The research team around Drebing had stressed on Wednesday that the rate of current abuse allegations per 100.000 Catholic priests has not declined significantly nationwide since 2009, he said. Also with the appropriate criminal charges against clergymen no clear decrease is to be recognized. He argued that this could indicate that even more intensive church prevention work does not prevent abuse by priests.

Study worked with extrapolation

The study did not give absolute figures, but gave extrapolated rates per 100.000 persons, so as to enable a comparison with the entire male population.

For 2015, for example, the study cited 33.4 accused priests per 100.000 (2014: 25,5, 2013: 50,2.) Based on the total number of Catholic priests in Germany in 2015 of about 14.000 then results in an absolute number of 4.7 new accusers.

Drebing: abuse "continuing problem, not historical"

"For all the years considered, we are talking about a low single-digit number of accused priests," Drebing emphasized, referring to the "methodological limitations" of the study: "The decisive thing, however, is that the rate is not getting smaller."In any case, the study makes clear that "sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests is an ongoing problem, not a historical one.".

The study evaluated the data of the MHG abuse study of the Bishops' Conference published last year and compared it with the general crime statistics. Specifically, it is about indications of abuse in the personnel files of priests and deacons from the years 2009 to 2015.

The new study took into account only current accusations and criminal charges and no accusations of acts from the years before 2009. Moreover, it is exclusively a matter of assaults against children who were younger than 14 years at the time of the offence.

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