Child protection expert Hans Zollner sees a strong power imbalance in the church as a major factor in clergy abuse. In addition, there is insufficient preparation for the celibate life.
This is what the member of the Pontifical Commission for Child Protection said in an interview with the "Verlagsgruppe Bistumspresse" in Osnabruck, Germany. He commented on the initial results of a study on sexual abuse by clergy in the area of the German Bishops' Conference.
Power imbalance between those accused and those affected
The Jesuit identified the power imbalance between the accused and those affected as a problem. The study examines a period that goes back 70 years. At that time, "priests and other clergy in Catholic parishes were considered untouchable".
Another problem is people who are "neither emotionally balanced nor able to deal constructively with their sexuality," said the president of the Center for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University. It is not celibacy itself that is to blame for the assaults, but the lack of integration of celibacy into everyday life. Candidates for the priesthood would have to learn to deal with emotional, sexual and relational needs.
Making a connection between homosexuality and abuse would be "irresponsible and would stigmatize all homosexually inclined people in an intolerable way," Zollner said. A few decades ago, it was normal for priests to have more contact with boys than girls, which was one of the key opportunities for abuse.
Listening to the victims
Today, the church deals with the topic of abuse openly, self-critically, consistently and with critical support from the outside, said Zollner. "Children are safe in the Church, perhaps even safer than anywhere else."Nevertheless, the topic will occupy the church for decades to come. Therefore, the Church must listen to the victims, also in terms of prevention that works.
The German bishops intend to publish the nationwide study they commissioned on the subject of abuse next Tuesday at their plenary assembly in Fulda. The first results became known last week through media reports.
Accordingly, between 1946 and 2014 in Germany, there were 3.677 victims of sexual assault of at least 1.670 accused, among them a majority of priests. The title of the investigation is "Sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests, deacons and male religious in the area of the German Bishops' Conference".