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

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey 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.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid