The Archdiocese of Cologne, one of Germany’s richest archdiocese with assets of €3.35 billion or $3.82 billion at the end of 2013, is again courting controversy on the subject of child abuse in German Catholic Church. The Archdiocese had invited journalists to discuss an unpublished redacted version of child abuse report and asked reporters to sign a pledge to keep the contents a secret’. The report includes information on crimes, alleged perpetrators and implicated church officials. The eight invited journalists refused to sign the document.
“The journalist commits himself to exercise absolute silence regarding this information,” the agreement read, as per Deutsche Welle, the German public state-owned international broadcaster. The church officials had planned to explain issues regarding the report’s methodology to the journalists, adds the German official media.
Two years ago, Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, the Archbishop of Cologne, promised an independent and comprehensive investigation into sexual abuse in his diocese. A Mannheim, Heidelberg, and Giessen (MHG-Forschungsprojekt, 2018) or the MHG study of 2018 researched the incidence of child sexual abuse within Germany’s 27 dioceses, the abuser – victim characteristics and the responses of the church to such revelations. The study analysed the 38,156 personnel files spanning a period of 68 years, from 1946 to 2014. The study found allegations of sexual abuse of minors by 1,670 clerics which corresponded to 4.4% of all clerics from 1946 to 2014.
The report was assumed to be released after Cardinal Woelki spoke to Deutsche Welle on March 2020. But in October 2020, the victims were told that the report was not legally watertight and contained inadmissible prejudices. A new version is scheduled to be released in March 2021.
In a recent study by the German Conference of Superiors of Religious Orders (DOK), a collective comprised of superiors in the orders and congregations in Germany, at least 1,412 people approached the organizations claiming they were sexually abused as children, teenagers or as wards. At least 654 monks, nuns and other members of the orders were accused of abuse. About 80% of the victims were male and 20% female. About 80% of the suspected abusers have since died, while 37 of the accused have left their orders. Out of the 392 religious orders in Germany, only 291 responded to the questionnaire. Among the participating institutions, over one third said they had logged allegations of sexual abuse. Some of the allegations date back to the 1950s and 60s when many local schools and boarding schools in Germany were run by monks and nuns. While over 75% of the members of Germany’s religious orders are women, the alleged perpetrators were overwhelmingly male.