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Münster bishop refuses to quit after sexual abuse report

June 17, 2022

The Catholic bishop of the western German city of Münster says he won't resign in light of a report that criticizes the way he dealt with sexual abuse. Felix Genn admitted mistakes but said he did not cover up anything.

Felix Genn
Genn has accepted that he made mistakes, but says those of his predecessors were far worseImage: Guido Kirchner/dpa/picture alliance

Bishop of Münster Felix Genn on Friday said he would not resign after a report that claimed he was too lax in dealing with priests who had committed abuse.

While he admitted mistakes in dealing with the cases, Genn said he had not put the interests of the institution ahead of concern for the victims by covering up cases of sexual abuse. However, he did blame his predecessors for more "serious mistakes," saying that they had done so.

What the bishop said

"I myself should have acted differently in some situations,” said Genn, while insisting he had not kept the abuse a secret.

"I would therefore like to use my remaining time in office as bishop of Münster with the utmost commitment to continue and intensify listening to what those affected and what independent bodies recommend for dealing with sexual abuse in the diocese of Münster and try to implement that."

Genn added that his late predecessors Reinhard Lettmann, Heinrich Tenhumberg and Michael Keller had made "serious mistakes" in dealing with sexual abuse.

"They were guided by an attitude that focused on protecting the institution rather than on the victims," he said.

Some perpetrators of the abuse were said to have been reassigned, only to go on and commit further abuse.

Genn said he would look at whether an ecclesiastical process could help avoid such cases in the future, and that he would try to make personnel decisions more transparent.

Sexual Abuse: Benedict under pressure

What did the report say?

A five-member research team at the University of Münster drew up the report, which showed that there were nearly 200 clergy members involved — roughly 4% of the total for the diocese.

It found there had been 610 underage victims of sexual abuse from 1945 to 2020.

The researchers said they could prove decades of failure of leadership in the diocese — one of the largest in Germany — and, in some cases, obstruction of justice.

The now deceased bishops were at the center of the findings, but the researchers also accused the current incumbent, Genn, who took up the position in 2008, of not having taken a hard enough line with perpetrators who had expressed remorse.

A 2018 church-commissioned report concluded that at least 3,677 people were abused by clergy in Germany between 1946 and 2014.

More than half of the victims were 13 or younger, with nearly a third of those having served as altar boys.

The Münster study is among several since then to delve into abuse in individual dioceses over the decades.

Genn has himself been involved in reviewing whether a church investigation should be launched against Cologne Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki

Woelki has offered his resignation to Pope Francis over his handling of allegations of child sex abuse committed by priests. The pope, who last year gave Woelki a six-month "time out" for reflection, has yet to definitively decide. 

Sexual abuse in Germany – A cardinal under pressure

rc/msh (dpa, KNA, epd)