Teachers at Berlin's Canisius College sexually abused students on a large scale in the 1970s and '80s. The current rector of the Jesuit high school, Father Klaus Mertes, therefore addressed a letter to about 600 students of the affected grades. The Catholic News Agency (KNA) documents the letter published on Thursday essentially unabridged.
"Dear former students, In recent years, several of you have contacted me to acknowledge that you were victims of sexual abuse by individual Jesuits at Canisius College. The trail of abuse stretches through the 1970s and into the 1980s. It is with deep shock and shame that I have taken note of these appalling, not only isolated, but systematic attacks that have lasted for years. It is also part of the experience of the victims that in the Canisius College and in the Order there was a looking away by those who actually would have had a duty to protect the victims concerned. For this reason alone, the abuses concern not only the perpetrators and victims, but the entire college, both the school and the associational youth work. For the same reason, I hereby first apologize on behalf of the College to all affected former Canisians for what was done to them at the College. In talking to some of the victims, I have come to understand better the deep wounds that sexual abuse leaves in the lives of young people, and how a person's whole biography can be darkened and damaged for decades as a result of it. At the same time, I heard from the victims how liberating it is to begin to talk about their experiences, even if they happened a long time ago. There are wounds that time does not heal. On behalf of the college, I would like to point out that in 2007 the order established a commissioner's office to which victims of abuse by Jesuits and employees of Jesuit institutions can turn: Ms. Ursula Raue, attorney and mediator, (…) was for many years president of the German section of "Innocence in Danger," an international organization dedicated to combating child abuse on the Internet. She is the contact person not only for possible current suspicions and reports of victims. She is also the point of contact for victims of abuse from longer ago if they wish to reestablish contact with the Order or with the College. She is authorized and obligated to approach the order with victims and mediate. She cooperates in the confrontation of the perpetrators. Any information it receives will be shared with others only with the explicit consent of the victims. I respect, of course, when those affected have made the decision for themselves to break with the college, with the order, and with the Catholic Church as a result of their experiences. On the other hand, I do not want to omit the signal to those who seek contact with the College and the Order that we are approachable. In doing so, Ms. Raue is an opportunity for address. You may, of course, contact any other person you trust who has dealings with the Order and the College. Within the Jesuit Order in Germany P. Provincial informed some time ago that there have been undoubted cases of abuse of young people of both sexes by individual Jesuits in the past. This information has caused great consternation among the confreres. In addition to feeling shame and shock at the magnitude of the abuse in each case and in the accumulation – visible so far – we, on the part of the College, must ask ourselves how we can avoid becoming complicit again today by looking the other way. Looking away often already happens in the moment when one decides not to want to know, although one feels that one should actually look more closely. This is a challenge to the personal moral courage of each individual as well as to the scrutiny of structures. At the same time, the question arises as to which structures at schools, in the youth work of associations and also in the Catholic Church are conducive to abuses happening and de facto being covered up. Here we encounter problems such as lack of complaint structures, lack of protection of trust, encroaching pedagogy, encroaching pastoral care, inability to self-criticism, taboos and obsessions in church sexual pedagogy, inappropriate handling of power, dependency relationships. We have been working on these ies in recent years, both in the Order and at the College, and will continue to do so. In this sense, I thank the victims who, by their courage to speak out, also do a service to the College and the Order by raising these ies. On the part of the College, I would like to contribute through this letter to breaking the silence, so that the individuals and cohorts affected can speak to each other. In deep shock and shame, I repeat at the same time my apology to all victims of abuse by Jesuits at Canisius College."