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Damning allegations

February 21, 2010

The German government has called on the Catholic Church to play a proactive role in clarifying the widening allegations of clerical sex abuse at Catholic schools throughout the country.

A window frame in the shape of a cross at the the Canisius-Kolleg in Berlin
Reports of sexual abuse by priests have caused outrage in GermanyImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

"I expect concrete information from the Catholic Church on measures taken for a complete clarification (of this matter)," German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger told newsmagazine Der Spiegel in an interview which will be published on Monday, February 22.

Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger
Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger demanded more from the churchImage: AP

The minister called for an ombudsman to investigate the case, and proposed a meeting between representatives from Germany's 16 states, the church and victims of clerical sexual abuse.

Such a gathering would be "a good way to clear up the numerous abuse cases and to offer the opportunity to the Catholic Church to discuss voluntary compensation with victims," Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said.

The German politician leveled criticism at the Bishop of Augsburg, Walter Mixa, who she said was "hiding behind polemic excuses instead of contributing to clearing up" the matter.

The controversial bishop had previously told a local newspaper that the media and the "so-called sexual revolution" were partly to blame for the problem of child abuse in society.

Damaging allegations

The minister's comments come to a backdrop of a widening scandal involving allegations of sexual molestation at Catholic schools throughout Germany dating back to the 1960s. According to media reports, at least six schools were implicated in the claim.

Included are two former children's homes of the Catholic order the Salesians of Don Bosco in Berlin and the Bavarian town of Augsburg, as well as institutions run by Marists, Vincentians and Franciscans.

The most prominent of these involves as many as 115 alleged cases of child abuse at a Berlin Jesuit school. The matter is currently under investigation.

Hamburg Archbishop Werner Thissen said the scandal was the result of "structural problems" in the church. Thissen added it was in the church's interests to do everything it could to help clear up the abuse allegations.

An association of Catholic lay people, "We are the Church", has also called on bishops to come clean, and admit that cases that have come to light are not isolated.

Association spokeswoman Sigrid Grabmeier said German Pope Benedict XVI should make a statement urgently.


Editor: Toma Tasovac