Sex Abuse in the Catholic Church Bishops Open Personnel Files to Investigators
The credibility of the Catholic Church in Germany has suffered enormously as a result of allegations of sexual abuse. Now the country's bishops have ordered investigations of an unprecedented scale in Europe. SPIEGEL has learned the church will provide external investigators with access to personnel files in all 27 dioceses.
The Catholic Church in Germany is seeking to win back the public's trust with an investigation into sexual abuse by priests and people of the order that is unprecedented in Europe in terms of its scale. The bishops plan to provide staff at the Criminological Research Institute of Lower Saxony (KFN), an independent institute based in Hanover, with access to all personnel files for the past 10 years in all 27 of its dioceses in Germany. Nine of the 27 dioceses are providing access to personnel data going as far back as 1945.
The German Bishops' Conference, the governing body of the Catholic Church in Germany, voted unanimously in favor of the move on June 20. Under the supervision of a KFN team comprised of retired prosecutors and judges, church workers will sift through files in search of possible evidence of sexual abuse. In a second phase, the KFN team is then expected to assess the files in cases where there are suspicions.
They then plan to distribute a questionnaire to victims who can still be found in which they will be asked to provide more details about the incidents. In cases where there is interest, they would also like to conduct extensive interviews with both the victims and, if they are willing, the perpetrators. The Bishops' Conference is hoping to use the study to determine the circumstances that led to the crimes, how the church dealt with the allegations in the past and what lessons can be learned in order to prevent new cases of sexual abuse from happening.
In a further study, a group of psychiatrists associated with Norbert Leygraf, a prominent court expert in the city of Essen, will present their analysis of 50 cases in which priests or other church workers were tried on charges of sexual abuse and given psychiatric evaluations. The German bishops plan to present the findings of the three-year study this week and said they would not comment on the findings in advance.