Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

IN THE PAPERS

Just how green is François Hollande?

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Oil prices ‘could fall further’ without OPEC output cut

Read more

ENCORE!

Film Show: 'Nobody From Nowhere', 'Asterix and Obelix' and 'In The Family'

Read more

FOCUS

One year on, what has Maidan changed in Ukraine?

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Sarkozy criticised for comments about former Justice Minister's origins

Read more

DEBATE

The Pope's Wake Up Call: How to Kickstart "Haggard" Europe

Read more

FACE-OFF

François Hollande's private life faces global scrutiny

Read more

WEB NEWS

Web users react to Ferguson grand jury decision

Read more

WEB NEWS

USA: Online reactions to the death of Tamir Rice

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

2014-11-26 Ukraine

One year on, what has Maidan changed in Ukraine?

Ukraine recently marked one year since the start of the Maidan protests that ultimately toppled Viktor Yanukovich. Since then, fresh elections have been held. The association...

Read more

2014-09-26 France

Americans in Paris

Last report in our series celebrating Paris's rich cultural diversity: natives of both the North and South of the American Continent now call Paris home. They've brought with...

Read more

2014-11-25 violence against women

Working with offenders also key to ending domestic violence

To mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women we bring you a report on how France is trying to stamp out what remains an all-too-common form of...

Read more

2014-11-24 Tunisia

The growing frustration of Tunisia's jobless graduates

Tunisia's Prime minister has described Sunday's elections as a "ray of hope" for the Arab Spring countries. However hope is in short supply for many of Tunisia's unemployed. The...

Read more

2014-11-21 Iran

Inside an Iranian nuclear research reactor

Iran's nuclear objectives have long been a bone of contention between Tehran and members of the international community. While Iran claims its nuclear programme is solely for...

Read more