The German government has cleared the way for a round table on sexual abuse. Former federal family minister Christine Bergmann is also appointed as independent abuse commissioner. This was decided by the Federal Cabinet in Berlin on Wednesday. German Bishops' Conference welcomes Bergmann's appointment.
The cabinet on Wednesday approved the formation of the panel, titled "Sexual Abuse in Relationships of Dependency and Power in Private and Public Institutions and in the Family Sphere". The chairmanship will be shared by Ministers Kristina Schroder (Family Affairs, CDU), Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger (Justice, FDP) and Annette Schavan (Education, CDU). Former SPD federal family minister Christine Bergmann (70) is to serve as an independent commissioner for dealing with cases of sexual abuse. It should talk to victims and propose material or immaterial aid, Schroder explained. The first meeting of the round table, with about 40 experts, is scheduled for 23 April. April planned. According to Schroder, the committee should already complete its work by the end of the year.
Churches welcome appointment The Catholic German Bishops' Conference has welcomed the appointment of Christine Bergmann as the federal government's abuse commissioner. In a congratulatory letter to the SPD politician, the chairman of the bishops, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, at the same time thanked Droge on Wednesday for the establishment of a round table, which the cabinet also decided on Wednesday. Of course, the bishops' conference would be at the round table."The Catholic Church will do everything it can to push for a complete clarification of past cases of sexual abuse within its own ranks," Zollitsch affirmed. She said the church has "a high level of interest and already has good experience in tackling the ie of prevention offensively.". It is a good sign for Germany if the ie of sexual abuse is addressed by all socially relevant groups, Zollitsch added. "From all of us a relentless clarification and absolute transparency is necessary".Commenting on Bergmann's appointment, Berlin's Protestant Bishop Markus Droge said that as a former member of the church's leadership and equal opportunity commissioner, she brings the necessary experience to the new task. He hopes, Droge continued, that it will contribute to the unreserved clarification of the abuse cases.
Two working groups The Minister of Family Affairs announced there would be two working groups within the framework of the table. On the one hand, under her leadership, the focus is on prevention and raising awareness among children, parents and educators. On the other hand, a working group under the leadership of the Minister of Justice should deal with the clarification and processing of the cases of abuse that have occurred. "We are looking here, for example, for the causes of abuse in institutions," Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger explained. In addition, cooperation between institutions and criminal authorities is to be further improved. For this reason, the minister wants to invite representatives from the field of justice to the round table. "But it is also about how we can give recognition to the suffering of the victims," she said. Prevent and uncover Schavan emphasized that the round table will not only focus on educational institutions, but will also discuss how abuse in general can be better prevented or uncovered. She recalled that most cases of abuse occur in the family environment. The federal government supports everything that contributes to uncovering, clarifying and coming to terms with sexual abuse of children. Previously, the SPD had warned against narrowing the roundtable to incidents in church institutions. Abuse mostly occurs in the family, said parliamentary group leader Thomas Oppermann.
Greens criticize Merkel Meanwhile, the Green Party reiterated its criticism of Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) in her handling of the abuse ie. Merkel had "not dared to speak sharp and really clear words" when it was initially only about past incidents in facilities of the Catholic Church, said parliamentary group leader Renate Kunast in the ZDF morning show. A round table would now only talk inconsequentially. This Thursday, the Parliament is expected to deal with the ie of sexual abuse in a special session at the request of the Green Party. Minister Schroder also wants to speak at this event. Already during the budget discussions in the previous week, the topic came up repeatedly in the plenum. Meanwhile, representatives of an American victims' association offered their help to German victims and presented a letter to Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger. In it, they urged an independent state investigation into the abuse cases, which should not involve church officials.