Father Eberhard von Gemmingen, until recently head of the German editorial department at Radio Vatican, is a Jesuit priest who works at the affected Jesuit college in St. Blasien in the Black Forest was a student and later a prefect. In the this site interview he regrets the "appalling incidents", but warns against condemning the entire order on the basis of acts that took place decades ago.
this site: The Jesuit order itself has made the cases of abuse public in order to find possible further victims. How do you evaluate this action of your order?
Father von Gemmingen: The procedure is of course excellent, that not the press goes to the public, but we ourselves. Sooner or later it would have come out anyway, and it is always better for the sinner to confess than for others to point the finger at him. I find the procedure very good, I find of course the fact and the facts appalling.
this site: One of the two accused was also in the Jesuit college in St. Blasien active in the Black Forest. Possible further victims are suspected there. You yourself were a student and later prefect at this school. What was your personal reaction to this news??
Father von Gemmingen: So first of all, of course, one is moved by shame, grief and pity for the victims. Of course, the incidents were appalling, but one must also say that thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of students have passed through our colleges in Berlin, Bad Godesberg and St. Blasien went and have thereby received a fantastic preparation for life. So please do not throw the baby out with the bathwater, as much as I am really ashamed of the bad cases.
this site: Jesuits enjoy high reputation, especially in pedagogical field. The demand for the Jesuit schools is enormous. Will this change now?
Father von Gemmingen: I hope it will not change and I believe mankind is not so foolish that it concludes from one black sheep to all of them. Because the two priests who committed the abuse have also left the order a long time ago. This is a long time ago. I hope that humanity is wise enough not to say that these schools are bad at all, It would be quite wrong to say that everything is wrong with the Church, with the schools and with the Jesuits. That would be very stupid indeed.
this site: How can such cases then be prevented?
Father von Gemmingen: I think that in order to understand the whole thing, one has to observe that we have become more sensitive in these questions, thank God. In the past, priests who committed sexual offenses against young people were simply transferred. Because it was not considered so tragic, not only in the Church, but in the whole world. In the past, Jesuit superiors also sometimes acted like bishops, that they simply transferred people and hoped that nothing would become public. You have to remember, in the past, men were allowed to beat their wives, they were allowed to have slaves, they were allowed to beat children! We have become more sensitive in all these points, and that is why we know today that we have to deal with it differently.
this site: What will happen now??
Father von Gemmingen: I fear that cases of abuse will arise in many other schools and institutions. And I think, not only in church institutions. In this sense, we are probably not yet at the end of a terrible story. But you also have to say that when we uncover this and find that people need to be punished or disciplined, then we are making progress. As bad as that is, when you make moral progress about things like that.Interview: Simone Bredel