Symbol image abuse © Julia Steinbrecht (KNA)
The Diocesan Council of Catholics in the Archdiocese of Berlin asks those affected by sexual abuse in the Church for forgiveness and acknowledges that non-clergy also share responsibility.
"Many recognize, with silence, looking away and omission also guilty to have become. Realizing the extent of this complicity late now "hurts a lot," according to a motion unanimously passed by the highest lay body, the Diocesan Council of Catholics in the Archdiocese of Berlin, at its plenary meeting in Berlin on Saturday.
The motion also calls for a "transparent, unbiased and unsparing reappraisal," a binding crisis and communication management in cases of abuse, and a consistent integrated prevention work. Furthermore, there must be professional support and sufficient assistance for those affected, but also for perpetrators or potential perpetrators.
No independent commission
The Diocesan Council also discussed the commission convened by the archdiocese, which is allowed to read the abuse report published in parts at the end of January in its entirety and make recommendations on consequences. The committee includes three elected representatives each from the Diocesan Council and the Priests' Council. Several members stressed that this was an "internal, but not independent" commission. In addition, some council members spoke out in favor of an independent management of the commission as well as additional participation of affected persons.
Vicar General Manfred Kollig emphasized that if the expert commission advocates also appointing affected persons as members, "that should be possible". He and Archbishop Heiner Koch would support such a request. However, the head of the archdiocese's administration noted that he thought it would make sense if it were someone from outside the archdiocese. It would be conceivable, for example, to appoint a member from the advisory board of the German Bishops' Conference.
Pointing out clear consequences
Johanna Beck, a member of this affected persons advisory board, demanded as a guest speaker that "it be relentlessly named who the perpetrators and cover-ups were". She emphasized that anyone who wants justice to be done for the victims must clearly show that there are consequences and that those responsible will be held accountable.
At the same time, Kollig pointed out that there is no disciplinary law in the Catholic Church and that he considers this problematic. The archdiocese is therefore currently being advised by several external canon lawyers as to which sanction measures are possible at all.