Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

IN THE PAPERS

Freed French Hostages: Celebration and Speculation on how it all happened

Read more

HIGH PROFILE

Justine Dupont, surfer

Read more

THE BUSINESS INTERVIEW

Guillaume Poitrinal, Chief executive of Woodeum

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

A landslide victory for the 'invisible candidate' in Algeria

Read more

WEB NEWS

France's top consumer group sues internet giants

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Shocking revelations on South Korean ferry disaster provoke scathing editorials

Read more

HIGH PROFILE

Olivier Poussier, winner, world's best sommelier (2000)

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Peugeot-Citroën hopes for sales boost at Beijing auto show

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Presidential adviser resigns over 'shoe-shine scandal'

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

Comments

COMMENT(S)

 
 
Archives

2014-04-18 unemployment

Bosnia: Hopes of change among disempowered citizens

The war may have ended almost 20 years ago, but today Bosnia is going through a different kind of crisis: a political one. Major protests broke out in the city of Tuzla in...

Read more

2014-04-17 Wall Street

Bitcoin in the US: A monetary revolution?

Even if you're not into finance or technology, there's a good chance you've heard of Bitcoin. The mysterious digital currency equals no middlemen in your financial dealings: no...

Read more

2014-04-16 France

Campaigning against Bouteflika's re-election... in France

On Thursday, Algerians will head to the polls to elect their president. In France, Algerian citizens started voting on Saturday but many have decided to boycott the election....

Read more

2014-04-15 trade

China trade deal: Is Taiwan's identity under threat?

In Taiwan, students who occupied parliament for almost a month have called off their protest. It was sparked by a trade deal with mainland China, which still considers Taiwan as...

Read more

2014-04-14 Ukraine

Russia’s military build-up south and east of Donetsk

In eastern Ukraine, tensions are on a knife edge after a weekend that's seen several reported deaths, masked gunmen seizing government buildings and accusations at the highest...

Read more