Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

Turkish Airport Blasts

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

France indicted for support of ex-Chad dictator Hissene Habre

Read more

THE DEBATE

The big breakup: The EU after Brexit

Read more

FOCUS

France struggling to recruit prison imams

Read more

ENCORE!

Brazil’s contemporary art star Vik Muniz comes to Paris

Read more

FASHION

Men's fashion for summer 2017, part 1

Read more

ENCORE!

Music show: Metronomy, Celine Dion, Snoop Dogg and Jazz

Read more

TALKING EUROPE

UK votes to leave the EU: What now? (part 2)

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'Iceland: How far will they go?'

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

2016-06-28 France

France struggling to recruit prison imams

In today's edition we meet with a Muslim prison chaplain, an imam who visits French prisons in an effort to shield inmates from radical Islamism. Many observers accuse the...

Read more

2016-06-27 India

Drug dealers of hope: Activists fight for access to life-saving Hepatitis C cure

Hepatitis C, a liver disease, causes approximately 500,000 deaths every year. Luckily, there is a miracle cure patented by the American pharmaceutical giant Gilead. But for most...

Read more

2016-06-23 UK

Like it or not, immigration is Brexit's central topic

Immigration seems to be the most contentious topic in today's so-called "Brexit" referendum in the UK. A record number of people arrived in the UK in 2014, although bringing...

Read more

2016-06-22 UK

Brexit could lead to second Scottish independence referendum

With just one day to go before the UK's referendum on EU membership, we head to Scotland. Party leaders there support the "Remain" camp, and polls suggest most Scots will vote to...

Read more

2016-06-21 Mayotte

French island of Mayotte on verge of collapse

The Indian Ocean island of Mayotte has been a department of France since 2011, but locals feel abandoned by the country's central authorities. After more than two weeks of...

Read more