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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs