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Sexual abuse study cancelled

January 9, 2013

The Catholic Church in Germany has terminated an investigation into alleged cases of sexual abuse by clergy members. It is unclear whether the research will be continued by a different team.

2010-05-28 ILLUSTRATION - Church, a priest in a church, holding a bible. The holy cross on a chain around his neck, his hands folded. This image was produced to illustrate the items about sexual abuse in the church, religious boarding schools and summer camps. ANP XTRA ROOS KOOLE
Image: picture-alliance/ANP

The German Bishops' Conference confirmed that it has ended cooperation with the Criminological Research Institute of Lower Saxony (KFN) which had been investigating sexual abuse cases committed by employees of the Catholic Church, citing the lack of trust.

"The relationship of mutual trust between the bishops and the head of the institute has been destroyed," the Bishop of Trier, Stephan Ackermann, explained on Wednesday morning, saying that constructive cooperation had become impossible.

"Trust is vital for such an extensive project dealing with such a sensitive issue."

In an interview with public broadcaster "Deutschlandfunk," Christian Pfeiffer, the head of the KFN institute accused Church officials of hampering his team's research efforts by continually attempting to intervene in and control the investigation. In an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper he spoke of censorship.

Catholic Church Ends Sex Abuse Study

In 2011, the German Bishops' Conference had authorized the KFN to launch an investigation into sexual abuse cases. This followed reports of abuse at several Catholic schools across Germany, claiming that children had repeatedly been abused.

The team of experts around Christian Pfeiffer consisted of retired prosecutors and judges and was allowed access to personnel records on Church employees going back more than a decade.

The investigation was to determine how such abuses came about, how the Church had dealt with them in the past, and what conclusions could be drawn to prevent new cases.

This followed a spate of allegations in 2010 of abuse of children by priests and other Church employees and the subsequent criticism of the Church's slow response.

The Catholic Church officially apologized to the victims in March of 2010, and offered victims 5,000 euros ($6,546) each in compensation. During a visit to Germany, Pope Benedict XVI - who was the Cardinal of Munich from 1977 to 1982 - met with victims of abuse as a step towards reconciliation.

rg/kms (KNA, dpa, EPD)