Abuse, violence, prostitution: accusations against the former Catholic Piusheim make waves. Now the federal government's abuse commissioner is getting involved. He misses a "strong signal" from Cardinal Reinhard Marx.
In the scandal of alleged sexual abuse in the former Catholic Piusheim for children and adolescents in Upper Bavaria, the federal government now also intervenes.
The abuse commissioner Johannes-Wilhelm Rorig has asked the archbishop of the responsible diocese of Munich and Freising, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, in a personal letter, beyond the criminal prosecution also to work through the cases already barred by the statute of limitations. "I wanted to tell him clearly that I think it would be important if he would now send a strong signal pro independent reappraisal," Rorig told the German Press Agency.
Marx had also replied to his letter. "But unfortunately he has not yet sent this strong signal. I don't know why he didn't broadcast it, but that would have been an immensely important signal at Easter for those concerned."
"Cardinal Marx wants an independent investigation"
Marx's spokesman Bernhard Kellner confirmed that the archbishop had responded to Rorig's letter. "Cardinal Marx wants an independent clarification," he stressed. The archdiocese of Munich and Freising had been the first to commission an independent report in 2010. It also said another report was announced in February that would also look into new allegations that have come to light – like the one now about Piusheim. In contrast to the first report, the new one is to be published this time.
At present a consultation process is running within the German Bishops' Conference (DBK), how independent clearing-up can look uniformly in all dioceses, said Kellner. The Permanent Council of the DBK will decide in its meeting at the end of April. Marx does not want to anticipate this.
The Piusheim is now – 14 years after its closure – in the sights of the judiciary. The Munich II public prosecutor's office has begun preliminary investigations against a former educator and a then aspiring priest after a now 56-year-old man made serious accusations against them in court.
Since the preliminary investigations became known, more and more former residents have come forward to the victims' initiative "Eckiger Tisch". Over the years, 28 former residents of Piusheim have reported to the counseling center for former children in care at the Bavarian Youth Welfare Office; the Archdiocese of Munich knew of nine suspected cases. Meanwhile, another alleged victim has also come forward to the public prosecutor's office.
He was not surprised by the accusations, said Rorig: "If you work for years in the field, you can unfortunately imagine anything by now." That there was violence and also abuse again and again in children's homes in the past was known. "I never exclude the possibility that comparable major cases will come to light."
Hope for permanent council of the DBK
He called for independent processing commissions in all dioceses, in which those affected are also involved. "It is important that these commissions work independently and can see files themselves, and that the publications of their results do not require the approval of the respective diocese."
He now places his hope in the Permanent Council of the DBK, which will vote at the end of the month on the joint declaration that Rorig has prepared together with the DBK abuse commissioner, Bishop Stephan Ackermann. All 27 Catholic dioceses in Germany should then commit to having abuse cases systematically investigated by independent commissions according to uniform standards.
"This is about the concrete clarification of individual cases and also about the question of who covered up for whom," Rorig stressed. The so-called MHG study on the abuse scandal, which the DBK presented in 2018, could only be a start, he said. "The injustice done to children must be named and acknowledged."
He said he had hoped Marx could use the allegations against Piusheim as an opportunity to raise his "strong voice" and send a clear signal before the meeting of the Permanent Council for the creation of independent diocesan processing commissions. Should the joint statement not be adopted in the Council, "that would set back the processing extremely," said Rorig. "But I remain hopeful."