Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

DEBATE

Pakistan's Political Turmoil: Can Imran Khan's PTI Party Depose the Government? (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

Pakistan's Political Turmoil: Can Imran Khan's PTI Party Depose the Government?

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'The world’s dictators love the unrest in Ferguson'

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

A bellwether for what not to do

Read more

ENCORE!

Montreal Stories

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

More than half of French households will pay no income tax this year

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

#IceBucketChallenge and hashtag activism

Read more

WEB NEWS

Web users taking on the "Ice Bucket Challenge" to fight ALS

Read more

FOCUS

Israel's minorities and military service

Read more

Our Focus programme brings you exclusive reports from around the world. From Monday to Friday at 7.45 am Paris time.

FOCUS

FOCUS

Latest update : 2010-03-15

Sex abuse scandals

In recent months the Catholic Church has been rocked by scandal. After widespread accusations of child abuse by priests in Ireland, similar claims have begun emerging from other European countries, including Austria and the Netherlands. Now criticism in Germany is intensifying, especially after the revelation that the current Pope's brother Georg Ratzinger knew about mistreatment of children in his choir.

Over the last weeks not a day has passed without fresh allegations against more Catholic schools in Germany. The scandal quickly spread to Hamburg, Bonn and Munich. There are now allegations of abuse in 20 of the 27 dioceses in Germany and the victims number in their hundreds.

Berlin's Canisius college, an elite jesuit school, was where the first allegations of sexual abuse were made public.

One of the men who broke the scandal was Thomas. He was only 13 years old when he was subjected to sexual abuse. It took him 30 years to muster up the courage to talk about it and to accuse two of his former teachers, both of them priests. After Thomas spoke up, hundreds of other victims came forward.

"The real scandal," he says, "which I only discovered later, is how one of the offenders was allowed to continue to abuse again and again for another 30 years in a dozen towns and schools across the world, without anyone stopping him."

The German Justice Minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, accused the Vatican of obstructing investigations into the alleged abuse in the schools. She believes the Vatican built up a wall of silence, citing a directive from 2001 which says the most severe abuse cases should be subject to papal secrecy. That missive was written by Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, the former Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, now Pope Benedict XVI.

The Justice Minister's comments were an affront to the Catholic Church, according to Stefan Förner, spokesman for the Roman Catholic in Berlin. "It also angered the German Archbishop who fended off the accusations," he says.

"Some of the cases occurred 30 or 40 years ago but I believe that this isn't just about the Catholic Church but it's a problem in society at large. Some things couldn't be spoken about, they were a taboo."

Was the German Catholic Church part of a cover-up, keeping quiet about the years of sexual abuse? That's the opinion of Manuela Groll, a lawyer defending a group of victims in Berlin.

"It's clear from this directive that the Church wants to sort out its own issues and avoid an official investigation," she says. "The Church adheres to its own laws. No consideration has been given to the victims. The Church is shielding the offenders and that speaks volumes."

The German Catholic Church has publically apologised to the victims and agreed to take part in a round table discussion hosted by the government. What Thomas wants is to see the Church compensate the victims and break the rule of silence.

By Brice BOUSSOUAR , Anne MAILLIET , Abby D'ARCY HUGHES

COMMENT(S)

Archives

2014-08-19 military

Israel's minorities and military service

We look at how Israel's religious minorities feel about military service. At the end of last month - three weeks after the latest conflict with militants in Gaza started - Israel...

Read more

2014-08-18 religion

South Korea: The Catholic Church's Asian Tiger

We head to South Korea, where Pope Francis has just wrapped up a five-day visit. A pope hadn't set foot in the country for a quarter of a century. Yet Catholicism is thriving in...

Read more

2014-08-15 Thailand

Buddhism: Growing number of Westerners seek out spiritual retreat

Buddhism, which originated some 2,500 years ago in South Asia, is attracting more followers every day. Now even a growing number of Westerners are giving up their worldly...

Read more

2014-08-14 Ebola

Liberia struggles to cope with Ebola epidemic

In West Africa, the Ebola virus has killed more than 1,000 people across four countries, with Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone worst hit. The Liberian government has accepted...

Read more

2014-08-13 children

French summer camp aims to heal young victims of terror attacks

In the French countryside, a group of teenagers and young adults take part in a special kind of summer camp. The participants come from around the world but all have one thing in...

Read more