Heinrich Maria Janssen © KNA
The Hildesheim Bishop Norbert Trelle © KNA
Former Hildesheim bishop Heinrich Maria Janssen, who died in 1988, is accused of sexual abuse. He is said to have molested a boy over a period of years.
For the first time, allegations of sexual abuse are directed against a Catholic bishop in Germany. Former Hildesheim Bishop Heinrich Maria Janssen (1907-1988) allegedly abused a boy during his first years in office in the late 1950s to early 1960s, the Hildesheim diocese announced Friday. The diocese considers the descriptions of the person concerned to be plausible.
Bishop Trelle dismayed
The acting bishop Norbert Trelle showed himself dismayed. The matter had been brought to the attention of the diocese in spring 2015; it had forwarded the man's request for recognition of the suffering to the German Bishops' Conference. According to the diocese, he received a recognition payment of 10.000 euros.
The man, who was between 10 and 12 years old at the time of the abuse, had expressed a desire to keep the abuse strictly confidential, according to Trelle. He added that the diocese had initially followed suit for reasons of victim protection. Because of a press inquiry about the allegations, however, the diocese now feels obligated to inform the public about the abuse allegations.
According to the magazine "Der Spiegel" (Saturday), the victim stated that the bishop had regularly abused him from the age of ten through masturbation, oral and anal sex. These assaults had taken place between 1958 and 1963 "by taking advantage of the episcopal authority and position".
Criticism of "indulgence payment"
The person concerned criticized the sum granted to him as a cheap indulgence payment and demanded the removal of Janssen's mortal remains from the bishop's crypt in Hildesheim Cathedral. The diocese also reported that the man had made further demands for money; however, the diocese had not complied with them.
Many people had reacted deeply affected and shocked, said diocesan spokesman Volker Bauerfeld on Friday afternoon to the Catholic News Agency (KNA). The diocese will face the discussions; however, nothing can be said about further consequences at the moment.
Janssen, on 28. Born Dec. 1907 in Rinder near Kleve, was bishop of Hildesheim from 1957 to 1982. In 1934, he was ordained to the priesthood by the then-Bishop of Munster, Clemens August Graf von Galen. Until the expulsion in 1945, he worked in the Free Prelature Schneidemuhl, then chaplain until 1946 in Bronnzell near Fulda and until 1949 in Ochtrup. From 1949 to 1957, Janssen served as pastor and dean at the pilgrimage site of Kevelaer, before Pope Pius XII. (1939-1958) appointed him bishop of Hildesheim. He was consecrated bishop in 1957 by Cardinal Lorenz Jaeger of Paderborn, Germany. Janssen died on 7. October 1988.