Following allegations of abuse against former Hildesheim Catholic Bishop Heinrich Maria Janssen (1907-1988), acting Bishop Norbert Trelle addressed all parishes in his diocese in a letter on Sunday.
"I am dismayed by the news of this abuse," Trelle stated in the letter. However, the diocese wants to continue its course of clearing up such allegations, he said.
"Five years ago, we decided to proceed with transparency and clarity in dealing with sexual abuse," the bishop writes. He feels obliged to this principle also in this case, in which his predecessor in office is accused.
Victim now 70 years old
"I consider this path the only correct and responsible one."The diocese of Hildesheim, in the eastern half of Lower Saxony, includes about 615.000 Catholic Christians.
The diocese had disclosed the suspicion against Janssen on Friday. The former bishop allegedly molested an altar boy from 1958 to 1963 who was 10 years old when the assaults began. The victim, now around 70 years old, had contacted the diocese in April after decades of silence.
Bishop Trelle's team of advisors on sexual abuse considers the man's accounts credible. "The suffering inflicted on the man, according to his testimony, fills me with deep sadness," Trelle explained. The diocese therefore paid on the recommendation of the Central Coordination Office of the German Bishops' Conference at the end of July 10.000 euros to the victim. According to the diocese, this is twice as much as is usually paid in abuse cases. Further payments, as the man had demanded, the diocese rejected according to its own information.
The popular Bishop Janssen led the diocese from 1957 to 1982. The alleged cases of abuse occurred shortly after the start of his tenure, according to the report. "Many of you will be shocked to hear this news," Trelle wrote to congregations. Above all those, which met the bishop still personally, "will feel disturbance and grief".
How the diocese intends to deal with the accusations against Janssen in the future, the diocese initially left open. The victim demands that Janssen's remains be removed from the bishop's crypt in the cathedral.
According to the diocese, a total of 38 allegations of sexual abuse have been reported against 23 priests since 2011. The cases date back to the 1940s.