“It's not about single perpetrators”

What are the systemic causes underlying abuse in the church? A recently published book asks this from an interdisciplinary perspective. This Thursday evening it will be presented.

Sexualized violence – this continues to be a major topic in the Catholic Church. Not only since the publication of the so-called MHG study in 2018 is it clear: There were a large number of assaults on children and adult charges.

Contribution of the Bonn Faculty to Reappraisal

A recently published book now wants to make a contribution to the reappraisal: The work "powerlessness.Power.Abuse" asks from a theological, but also from a medical and psychological perspective about the systemic causes of sexualized violence in the church. "It is not about individual perpetrators," says Jochen Sautermeister, professor of moral theology, dean of the Faculty of Catholic Theology at the University of Bonn and co-editor of the book. "Rather, it is about the systemic factors that promote abuse."

After the publication of the MHG study, the Bonn faculty wanted to make a contribution to the reappraisal. "We considered what contribution theology can make to this and to what extent the results challenge theology," says Sautermeister.

A lecture series turned into a book

At the beginning there was a series of lectures; from these contributions the book then developed. And the title "Powerlessness.Power.Abuse" is deliberately chosen ambiguously. "It's about abuse, about abuse of power, and about experiences of powerlessness – and about the interplay of these aspects," Sautermeister explains.

"We deliberately aimed for this interweaving. And indeed, many of the analyses in the contributions of the authors point in a very similar direction – without this common denominator having been given beforehand."

Online presentation

This Thursday evening, the new book presented in an online event of the Faculty of Catholic Theology. In addition to the editors Prof. Sautermeister and prof. Andreas Odenthal, chair of the subject Liturgiewissenschaft, will also be Prof. Thomas Sternberg, chairman of the Central Committee of German Catholics, and Mary Hallay-Witte, acting director of the Institute for Prevention and Reappraisal of Sexualized Violence, will take part in the conference.

In addition to some explanations about the book, prof. Sternberg and Mary Hallay-Witte discuss various aspects of the book and take up impulses from it in the discussion. "We have deliberately chosen two perspectives," said Sautermeister. "Once the associationally organized level of German Catholicism with Prof. Sternberg – and thus also that of the synodal way. And at the same time, with Ms. Hallay-Witte, we have an expert from the field of prevention and reappraisal who is dealing with this on a supra-regional level."

Book as theological reflection and arance of results

For Professor Sautermeister, this book launch is intended to accomplish three things: "We want to reflect theologically on the systemic dimension of sexualized violence in the church in a broad horizon. Then we also want to ame the responsibility of a theological faculty to come to terms with and prevent abuse. Because prevention without reappraisal is not possible and reappraisal always requires prevention as well. And third, we want to point to the book as a safeguard of results in the discourse and bring it into the conversation."

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