German Bishops Assure Rapid Response to Abuse Report

General Assembly Takes Up Issue of Sexual Misconduct

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FREIBURG IM BREISGAU, Germany, FEB. 23, 2010 ( A suspicion of sexual abuse must be followed by a «perfect and absolutely transparent explanation,» says the president of the German episcopal conference.

Archbishop Robert Zollitsch affirmed this Monday when he spoke to the press about the program of discussions at the bishops’ spring general assembly.

On the agenda is the issue of cases of sexual abuse of minors in certain Jesuit schools. Around 100 former students have come forward in recent days reporting they were abused; most were students at one school.

«I apologize in the name of the Catholic Church in Germany to all those who are victims of that crime,» Archbishop Zollitsch, said. «[…] Wherever there is a suspicion, there must be a perfect and absolutely transparent explanation.»

He noted that the episcopal conference had responded immediately as soon as the cases were reported.

Particular gravity

«To be perfectly clear, I state: The sexual abuse of minors is always a heinous crime,» Archbishop Zollitsch said, using words expressed by Benedict XVI and assuring they come from his own «profound conviction.»

«And I apologize to all those who have been victims of those crimes,» he added.

Archbishop Zollitsch acknowledged that within the Church, the sexual abuse of minors is «particularly grave because there is a special trust of children and adolescents in the priest.»

«There must not be abuse — especially not in the Church,» he said.

The German prelate recognized that the Jesuits had assumed responsibility for the cases in question and said they had drawn lessons from the failures of some priests.


Archbishop Zollitsch went on to note that in Germany, there have been a series of directives in force for eight years already to prevent and address cases of abuse.

He explained that the directives are above all focused on concern for the victims and that they have «demonstrated their efficacy.»

The prelate affirmed his confidence that public authorities will act as soon as possible and investigators will be given all relative information.

In any case, the episcopal conference president added, it is foreseen that during this general assembly, there will be talk on possible revisions and changes in the directives, orienting them in the main to prevention.

And, Archbishop Zollitsch added, there will be discussions on the suitability of future priests, insofar as their psychological and sexual maturity, as well as the suitability of ministers and teaching staff.

The prelate said that at the end of the assembly, next Thursday, there would be a public report of the conclusions.

He added that the issue is so grave that it will be addressed during his next visit to Rome in March.

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