For the church, the week ends as it began: with the topic of abuse. Last Sunday, the Catholic Church commemorated the victims nationwide. Now the focus is on reappraisal and prevention.
"Something has obviously started to move," says Matthias Katsch. The spokesman for the "Cornered Table" initiative is among those who give a voice to those affected by sexual abuse.
How the churches deal with the ie, he observes particularly closely. In the 1970s, he himself was a victim of abuse: at the Canisius College in Berlin, a Jesuit school. There, the then leader Klaus Mertes made the first cases public in 2010. This step marks the beginning of a debate that continues to this day.
Noticeable progress in coming to terms with the situation
Eight years later, Katsch notes tangible progress in coming to terms with the situation. Dealing with victims has become more self-evident. "Our demand for independent state investigations and scientific reappraisal also resonates with the churches." Last Sunday, the Catholic Church observed its first nationwide day of remembrance for victims of abuse. The week before, the synod of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) adopted an eleven-point program against abuse and the establishment of a central contact point.
On Friday, the Catholic bishops plan to take stock of their prevention work at a specialist conference in Cologne, together with the German Conference of the Superiors of Religious Orders and the German government's independent commissioner for child sexual abuse, Johannes-Wilhelm Rorig. On the same day, the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) meets in Bonn for its plenary session. The topic will also play a role there: on the agenda is a lecture by Jesuit Father Mertes.
A conversation with Manuela Rottgen, the prevention officer of the Archdiocese of Cologne, raises hope that the ideas and measures developed in the church will also spread to other parts of society. Abuse, Rottgen points out, for example, exists not only in schools or daycare centers, but also in nursing homes. And: the best rules are of little use if they are not also supported from the very top.
Permanent Council of the Bishops' Conference
Exactly this neuralgic point will decide the future of the church. Still, at least that's what Bishop Stephan Ackermann, the abuse commissioner of the bishops' conference, hinted at in a "Spiegel" interview, some of his confreres don't seem to have grasped the full gravity of the situation. At the Permanent Council in Wurzburg at the beginning of the week, Ackermann wanted to present as concrete a roadmap as possible.
Among other things, the bishops agreed to establish common standards for personnel file management. In addition to diocesan contact persons, external independent contact points are planned for the future. An independent investigation is to clarify who, beyond the perpetrators, was institutionally responsible for abuses in the church. The procedure for the recognition of suffering and thus the financial support for victims will also be put to the test.
Loss of confidence according to survey
Time is pressing. According to a SWR survey published on Wednesday, the Catholic Church continues to suffer from a massive loss of trust. Also a majority of the asked ones showed up dissatisfied with the past reprocessing. Meanwhile, among the Catholic laity, calls for internal church reforms are growing louder. ZdK President Thomas Sternberg described it this way in the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung": more participation for women, a "breaking up of clerical leadership and management structures" and a reorientation of sexual morality.
Inevitably, one's gaze turns to the Vatican and the universal church, where, however, there is a "deep disagreement about the question of the causes of abuse," as Klaus Mertes told our site stressed.
Pope Francis has invited a synod of bishops to Rome in February. The Protestant Church, because of its constitution, has a slight advantage in these matters. Irrespective of this, presentable results are now required, emphasizes Matthias Katsch. For example, the creation of a justice and truth commission that coordinates concrete reappraisal projects. So that the movement does not go nowhere.