Abuse: German Bishops’ Conference, five projects to support the victims and promote prevention

The results of the study into the “Sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests, deacons and male religious belonging to the German Bishops’ Conference” were the focus of the Permanent Council’s meeting yesterday, which discussed the next steps to be taken in preparation for the Autumn Plenary Assembly of the German Bishops. Starting from the Fulda Declaration, in which several problems that need to be addressed in the near future have been identified, the Permanent Council decided to start five projects to support the victims and promote a culture of prevention. It intends to follow a common line in the handling of complaints involving members of the clergy and to set up support services – not only in the dioceses but also outside – where sexual abuse complaints can be lodged. There is also a will to clarify who is responsible – besides the individuals who have committed these crimes – at the institutional level. The five projects also include the recognition of the suffering experienced by the victims, and supra-diocesan monitoring as part of a prevention plan. The task of implementing these projects was entrusted to Bishop Stephan Ackermann, contact person of the German Bishops’ Conference for sexual abuse complaints within the Catholic Church in Germany. As a first step, Mgr. Ackermann will liaise and seek an agreement on the five projects with the Independent Commissioner for questions pertaining to sexual abuse of children, Johannes-Wilhelm Rörig. In the meantime, work has already started to prepare the guidelines and the prevention plan. The Permanent Council also decided to address issues such as the celibacy of priests and various aspects of Catholic sexual morality in transparent dialogue with experts from different disciplines. A proposal was also accepted to establish inter-diocesan criminal courts for proceedings relating to sexual abuse committed on the territory within the competence of the German Bishops’ Conference. Contacts have already been made with the competent offices in Rome. The Permanent Council believes that there are grounds for a reform of Canon Law and Procedural Law on this matter, and the German Bishops are ready to cooperate with the universal Church to advance this reform.

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