Enlightenment and safeguarding personal rights

Enlightenment and safeguarding personal rights

Insignia of secular jurisdiction: Justitia and piles of files. © Volker Hartmann

A processing of abuse only by lawyers is insufficient, says the historian Thomas Grobbolting. Historians should also be involved in the work to systematically reappraise the past.

The Hamburg historian Thomas Grobbolting considers an abuse reappraisal in the Catholic Church only by lawyers to be insufficient. "This is a limited view of things, which contributes only a small part to the effort to reappraise," the historian told the "Kolner Stadt-Anzeiger" (Wednesday).

On Friday, Cologne Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki had stopped the cooperation with a Munich law firm because its study on possible misconduct of diocesan officials in dealing with abuse cases was allegedly methodologically flawed. In addition, Woelki commissioned a new partnership with the investigation.

Historians participate

For the diocese of Munster, Grobbolting is leading his own research project on how the diocese's leadership deals with cases of sexualized violence. "The core business of the historian is to reappraise the past. There we have a completely different expertise than lawyers, who focus on the question of the legality or illegality of human behavior," says the historian.

The two-and-a-half-year project at Grobbolting's former place of work at the University of Munster is being financed by the diocese of Munster to the tune of 1.3 million euros, according to him. A core team of four historians and an ethnologist are working on it.

Established standards

On the controversial question of statements about those still living in positions of responsibility, Grobbolting referred to "long-established standards," such as those in the Stasi Records Act. Here, too, it was a matter of a double interest: to satisfy the interest in clarification and, at the same time, to protect the personal rights of the persons concerned.

The historian announced that he would clearly identify responsibilities of "relative persons of contemporary history" such as bishops, vicars general or chiefs of staff in his opinion, if necessary linked with their own arrivals.

Possible reasons?

His investigations revealed the first characteristics of the diocesan leadership's actions, Grobbolting said. The "episcopal care" had "for a long time always been directed first at the offender". "This is a matter of preserving the priestly existence of the confrere."Behind this is the idea of the special value of the ordained priest.

"This status of the individual," he said, is what the Church needs to "maintain because at the same time the sacrality of the system hangs on it"; this has been "for a long time the thinking of the diocesan leadership". Grobbolting said: "And I strongly suspect that what we have found for Munster will not have been different in Cologne."

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