Change of perspective sought

Catholic religious orders in Germany ended their four-day conference in Vallendar, near Koblenz, on Wednesday with a plea for apologies to victims of sexual abuse. In the future, the focus should be on the victims and their relatives as well as on victim protection.

A change in perspective is taking place among religious orders, explained Abbot Hermann-Josef Kugler, newly elected president of the German Conference of Superiors of Religious Orders (DOK) at the conclusion of the conference "Sexual Abuse of Minors – Guilt and Responsibility". "The first look is now to the victim and the relatives, as well as the protection of victims."The DOK, founded in 2006, represents the interests of the Catholic religious orders in Germany, the approximately 22.000 women religious and about 5.In the past, it was often a matter of protecting a perpetrator from allegedly false suspicions or preserving the good reputation of an institution, Kugler acknowledged. The orders want to adopt the revised guidelines of the German Bishops' Conference on this topic. Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier, as a conference guest, had emphasized the joint efforts of bishops and religious orders to come to terms with the abuse problem in the interests of the victims and to swiftly implement prevention concepts.

Lutz: Relationship to God broken The Cologne psychiatrist Manfred Lutz emphasized during the conference that abuse by religious and priests is perceived as particularly reprehensible because the discrepancy between saying and doing is especially great among them. With clergy abuse, many victims break relationship with God in addition to traumatizing experiences, she says. Lutz rejected the accusation that rigid Catholic sexual morals had encouraged sexual assaults in the past. Abusers are able to instrumentalize any value system for their own purposes, he emphasized.The Jesuit Abuse Commissioner, lawyer Ursula Raue, welcomed the fact that various religious orders have meanwhile appointed external contact persons for victims of sexual abuse. In order to cooperate better in the future, the General Assembly also decided to establish a coordination commission between the German Bishops' Conference and the Conference of the Superiors of Religious Orders.

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