News / Europe

Catholic Church Inundated with Sexual Abuse Allegations

Alleged misconduct by Catholic priests continues to surface and the church is struggling to contain the damage. VOA's Mariana Schroeder looks at how these allegations are haunting the church in Germany, the pope's homeland.

Mariana Schroeder

This week Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of an Irish bishop over his handling of child abuse cases since 1995 and the German government set up a special panel to look into sexual abuse allegations in the Catholic Church and elsewhere.

Allegations of abuse continue to flood church offices and help groups in Germany.  A number of task forces have already been set up where victims of physical and sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic priests can tell their stories and ask for help. Now the German government has set up an expert panel and the Bishop's Conference in Germany has announced a special papal aide hot line which starts operations the end of this month.

Munich lies in the heartland of Germany's Catholics.  It's here that Pope Benedict, formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was archbishop in the 1980's.  And, many of the alleged abuses occurred during that time.  In one case now being examined, a priest alleged to have abused students was transferred to Munich from another diocese.  Questions have been raised about what Cardinal Ratzinger may have known about this case and others.

Allegations surfaced this week that Pope Benedict, before he became pope, ignored warnings about a priest in Milwaukee. The information comes from two lawyers who filed lawsuits against the Milwaukee Archdiocese. The New York Times cites letters they obtained from Wisconsin bishops to then-Cardinal Ratzinger, asking for action against Father Lawrence Murphy, a Milwaukee priest.

Godehard Bruentrup is a Jesuit priest and professor at the Munich Jesuit College. He says he doubts that Ratzinger knew anything about these cases.

"In the case of Ratzinger he was not directly involved in the reassignment of this priest.  In a large diocese like Munich there is someone charged with assigning priests to various jobs. It is not what the bishop does. So he was not directly involved but he was bishop so there is some indirect responsibility. He probably didn't even know about it," he said.

It's not yet possible to assess the full scope of the problem. Some 120 cases have been reported to the sex abuse task force set up this month in Munich.  Bruentrup says he knows of some 300 other cases that the Jesuits are examining.

Some victims have come forward publicly and appeared on German television, sometimes with graphic accounts of alleged abuse at the hands of Catholic priests.

Rainer Maria Schiesser, a parish priest in Munich, speaking through a translator, tells VOA victims have contacted him by phone.

"They are elderly men, who are now well over sixty and are still suffering. It is not just the physical pain, which also occurred, but it is the spiritual hurt they suffer. Their trust was misused, their friendship was violently misused, the joy of living was turned into darkness," he said.

Allegations of similar abuse have surfaced in the past in places like the United States and more recently in Ireland and elsewhere in Europe.

The pope has accepted the resignation of one Irish bishop, but others have been implicated in the cover up of abuse cases. Pope Benedict took the highly unusual step of sending a letter to the Irish Church criticizing some bishops for mishandling abuse cases, but some Catholics in Germany express disappointment that there is no word from the pope about cases in his homeland.  

Jesuit priest, Godehard Bruentrup, says he is not surprised the pope has remained silent.

"The pastoral letter to the Irish bishops has been in preparation for months…  I think he will sooner or later address the German church," he said.  "It may be wise to let the German bishops find out what happened and when the dust settles, and we have a clear view that he speaks. I hope he will do this," he said.

Many German Catholics say the church will have to make many changes to prevent such scandals from happening in the future.  But, they say change in the Catholic Church has always been slow in coming.

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
AppleAndroid