Abuse: how should the Catholic Church react?

A study commissioned by the German Bishops' Conference and published on Tuesday sheds light on the extent of sexual abuse in the German Catholic Church. At least 1,670 priests sexually abused children and youths between 1946 and 2014, according to the report. Commentators outline how the Church should tackle the situation.

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Der Tagesspiegel (DE) /

Chruch must make a clean slate

Now the Church must thoroughly investigate all the crimes and go through the painful process of questioning many things, Der Tagesspiegel notes:

“As Chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx must take the matter seriously. By finally launching a discussion about a power structure that is thousands of years old and about sexual morals; by finally breaking the cartel of silence; by finally investigating and questioning everything: community and pastoral care, the seal of confession - which prevented tips from being passed on - and celibacy. The lack of transparency, the hierarchy and the humiliation must also be discussed - but from the perspective of the victim. ... For this, the Church must open its archives in the bishoprics, in the religious orders and in all the institutions it runs such as boarding schools, schools and care homes.”

Die Presse (AT) /

Question celibacy

Communication expert Max Gottschlich also calls in Die Presse for resolute action:

“Priests guilty of sexual abuse must - as opposed to current practice - be removed from the clergy and brought to justice immediately and without exception. Those suspected of wrongdoing must not be allowed to exercise any form of clerical duty until their cases have been cleared up. Once again the urgent question is, whether priests should not be released from celibacy. Certainly, allowing priests to live out their sexuality is no guarantee against sexual abuse, nevertheless it is likely to considerably reduce the number of those who commit offences, as the study put out by the German Bishop's Conference shows: while 5.1 percent of Diocesan priests were guilty of sexual abuse, that figure dropped to 'only' one percent among deacons.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Don't play down abuse!

Under no circumstances should sexual abuse be played down, writes Catholic priest and psychotherapist Stéphane Joulain in Le Monde:

“Some members of the clergy think sexual abuse 'isn't all that bad'. Yes it is! When a priest abuses a child's body he harms the child to his very core, he imprisons it in suffering, shame and silence. He harms the child's growth, development and personal relations. When a priest abuses a child, he blocks the child's access to a community of faith, he stops it from believing in life, in himself, in human beings, in love, and in God. When a priest abuses a child, he abuses the most sacred thing in this world: the gift we call life.”

Pravda (SK) /

Abuse is about power, not sexuality

Francis has warned against judging misconduct solely on the basis of today's criteria. For Pravda this is the wrong approach:

“The pope is wrong when he says that it's unfair to judge old cases of sexual abuse according to today's moral standards. That's not the issue. Sexual violence is a question of power, not sexuality. And in the case of the Church the power abused by a priest is of an institutional nature. This is not about Father XY 'doing it with children'. It's not about just one particular situation that occurred somewhere in the parish garden, but about the Church's power over the people.”