“No accusatory tone towards the church”

The Round Table on Child Abuse convened by the German government has met in Berlin. The first meeting was attended by around 60 representatives from churches, the federal government, the states, associations and victim counseling services. The Catholic Church was satisfied afterwards

Two hours were scheduled, in the end it was a good three. Hardly surprising, after all, the Federal Ministers for Family Affairs, Justice and Education had invited no fewer than 60 participants to the Round Table against Child Abuse in the end. Bishop Stephan Ackermann, the German Bishops' Conference's commissioner for abuse, was the first to leave the non-public kick-off meeting on Friday afternoon, which was surrounded by the media. His abrupt departure, however, was due solely to the fact that he had to catch his plane back to Trier. "It was a very respectful and constructive atmosphere," he told the waiting journalists, visibly satisfied. Much expertise had sat together. He was confident, the bishop said, that the panel would come to good conclusions. And, no, there had been "no accusatory tone towards the Catholic Church at all, quite the opposite," stressed Ackermann, who had been sitting at the round table – rather at the table rectangle – directly next to Federal Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger (FDP). The bishop explained that the question of compensation payments had only played a marginal role in the plenum. The focus was on getting to know each other and collecting topics for further work in the now three subgroups for the areas of prevention, reappraisal and legal ies, as well as research into pedosexual behavior and possible therapies. The latter had been spontaneously launched by Federal Research Minister Annette Schavan (CDU) at the end of the meeting, after the statement by sexologist Klaus M. Beier had apparently made a lasting impression on the plenum. Beier heads the Institute for Sexual Science and Sexual Medicine at Berlin's Charite University, which offers therapy to men with pedosexual tendencies.

Schroder: "Constructive and intensive" A little later, the three ministers presented themselves to the press in a similarly detached manner to Ackermann. The meeting was "constructive and intensive". Federal Family Minister Kristina Schroder (CDU) suggested as a first measure a binding voluntary commitment for church and state educational institutions. State funding could then be made dependent on whether institutions signed such a commitment. Schroder stressed that the Round Table could draw on the work already done, for example by the victims' associations: "We are not starting from scratch."The Federal Minister of Justice warned against overemphasizing criminal law in the abuse debate. As a rule, it could not fulfill what victims often expect from it, such as the recognition of their suffering and the de-tabooing of the topic of abuse, Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said. She also expressed skepticism about an automatic duty to report suspected abuse. This is a problem if the victims expressly wish not to involve the public prosecutor's office. The abuse commissioner of the bishops' conference also sees it similarly. "We must be careful not to make the inhibition threshold for victims even higher," Ackermann warned. But there were critical voices. The representative of the Green Party at the Round Table, Ekin Deligoz, criticized that the first meeting had remained largely symbolic. Thus there had been no well-founded fundamental debate. The participation of victims in the work of the Round Table is also unsatisfactory, she said. The body could not shift responsibility for this onto the commissioner for dealing with abuse cases, Christine Bergmann. Others criticized the course of the meeting. This had been little structured, it was heard. But the ministers stressed that the goal of the first meeting had been for each of the participants to have their say. They referred to the working groups, which should quickly present concrete results. Already in May they will meet again, the politicians announced. The roundtable won't meet again until after the summer break. He plans to present a first interim report at the end of the year.

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