Tacheles at the square table?

Federal Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger has invited the chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, to a discussion on the abuse scandal in the Catholic Church at the end of March. She continues to stand by her proposal for a round table exclusively for the cases of abuse in the church. Bishops react angrily.

The atmosphere between the German Bishops' Conference and Federal Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger (FDP) remains tense. The bishops' conference reacted angrily Thursday to the public announcement by Max Stadler (FDP), parliamentary state secretary in the Justice Ministry, that the minister had invited the conference chairman, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, for the 25. March invited to talk. "The appointment of the minister has been made known to us through the media today. We do not have a letter so far," said the press spokesman for the bishops' conference, Matthias Kopp, in response to a question in Rome. The date has not been agreed with the Bishops' Conference. "Besides, the chairman is prevented from attending that day because of other commitments."Stadler meanwhile rowed back. The date for the talks is probably under consideration, but has not yet been set, he told the Catholic News Agency (KNA) in Berlin. The Ministry of Justice considers such a discussion to be sensible and therefore hopes for approval. The head of the Catholic Office in Berlin, Prelate Karl Justen, also emphasized that no date had yet been set. The same applies to the content of such a conversation, he said. However, he said, they are in discussion about a possible date. Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger advocates a round table solely to deal with abuse scandals in church institutions. In her view, this should also include possible compensation for victims of sexual abuse. Zollitsch rejects roundtable limited to church to include victims of non-church institutions. Instead, the bishops' conference welcomed the round table, which is broader in terms of topics and participation, to which the ministers Kristina Schroder and Annette Schavan (both CDU) have invited participants. Experts from all socially relevant areas are to discuss better prevention here. Relations between the Church and the Minister of Justice are currently strained. Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger accuses the church of covering up abuse cases within its own ranks and preventing a swift criminal investigation. At their plenary assembly, the Catholic bishops had in the meantime ultimatively called on the minister to withdraw her accusations of a lack of fidelity to the law on the part of the church.

"Round tables are not a panacea" Green Party politician Antje Vollmer has expressed skepticism about the establishment of a roundtable on child abuse. "Round tables are not a panacea for responding to heated debate," Vollmer warned in an epd interview in Berlin. The former vice president of the Bundestag moderates the Round Table for Children in Care, which has been in existence for a year now."My experience shows that a roundtable raises tremendous hopes that it may not be able to fulfill, even with the utmost effort," Vollmer said. Neither could the body redress past wrongs, nor satisfy justified needs for revenge, nor lift huge sums of billions of dollars. A roundtable is not a solution to problems, he said, but a "complicated, intensely working body".The round table on the cases of abuse in schools planned by Federal Family Minister Kristina Schroder and Federal Education Minister Annette Schavan (both CDU) is to meet for the first time on April 23. April meeting. Among others, representatives of churches as well as teachers' and social associations have been invited to attend. They are to develop preventive measures and a voluntary commitment by public institutions to clear rules of conduct in cases of abuse.

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