Thursday, February 25, 2010

Real words opposed to obfuscation and dodge

Below is a quote from a comment a woman has made on child sex abuse. It is an excellent expression. No bishop or religious superior has ever written in those terms. Another pointer to the reality that church authority is at sea.

Last weekend on Irish television we saw a woman reading a bishop's statement at Mass. It really was one of the greatest acts of tokenism ever perpetrated. It was unfortunate that the woman allowed herself to be put in such a position.

I think, in the end, what angers people who have been abused is that the damage done is permanent and devastating and so often underestimated for what it does to the victims. Sexual abuse is about the victim. The abuser has no excuse - be he/she a religious, who is denied the human right of sexuality by virtue of vows or a person, who is denied sexual relations within the confines of a marriage or a committed relationship. Or a person who has a deranged desire for children because of their deeply ingrained sense of inadequacy etc. It doesn't matter what drives the abuser. What matters is the fall-out on the abused and in the end, that's where I feel the church specifically and society in general has failed. To be quite honest, the fall-out from abuse is very similar to any traumatic stress injury of the soul and self. Children who were sexually abused need to be validated....loved, forgiven, and embraced. It was not their fault and they need to be told that.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Brooklyn is well worth a read

Colm Tóbin's Brooklyn is a great read.

It is horrifying how one single nasty person can play such an important role in a person's life. Maybe they force us to make our own decisions for ourselves.

The book won last year's Costa Novel award.

The author uses the expression, 'he left silence for a long time'. Never heard it before. Maybe the author tends towards pretension at times.

Drink driving German bishop who spoke out against army in Afghanistan

Again today's German press gives extensive coverage to the reporting of the Lutheran bishop and head of the German Protestant church being caught drink driving.

The piece below is from today's Frankfurter Rundschau.
It is being reported in the media not because she was drink driving but because she was caught doing it. And of course because of who she is.

On the other hand it suits German authorities to embarrass the woman. In recent months she has been a strong critic of the German Army serving in Afghanistan. She referred to it as immoral and unjustifiable.

Nobody ever knows what goes on in the life of another person. What's all this preaching and roaring, telling people what to do and not to do. Who are these guardians of morality? Anyone could draw up a long list of people who say one thing and do another. Some are more crass at it than others.

If Trevor Sargent had not been caught he would be still a minister. If Wilile O'Dea had not been caught he would still be Minister of Defence.

Would there be a word from an Irish bishop had they not been caught?

Is it all just a world of dirty tricks where the strong and powerful are always in charge. They always have all the tools at their disposal - parliament in public and then the behind-the-scenes 'stuff'.

Käßmanns Kritiker

Krokodilstränen in Strömen

Von Joachim Frank

Der Rat der evangelischen Kirche in Deutschland (EKD) stellt sich hinter seine Vorsitzende Margot Käßmann - einstimmig sprachen ihr die 14 Mitglieder des Rates das Vertrauen aus. Das hatten sie zuvor in einer Telefonkonferenz abgesprochen. In "ungeteiltem Vertrauen" überlasse der Rat Käßmann dann die "Entscheidung über den Weg, der dann gemeinsam eingeschlagen werden soll", hieß es in der Erklärung weiter. Auf einer regulären Sitzung noch in dieser Woche will das Gremium demnach eine abschließende Bewertung vornehmen.

Die Evangelisch-lutherische Landeskirche von Hannover ist Margot Käßmanns Dienstgeberin – und ihre stärkste Bastion. Die Bischöfin, seit 1999 im Amt, gilt als hoch anerkannt und beliebt – bei den drei Millionen Gläubigen, aber auch bei der übergroßen Mehrheit der Pfarrer und bei der Kirchenleitung in Hannover. Gern und mit spürbarem Stolz erzählt Käßmann, dass sie auf ihren Besuchen in den Pfarreien als "unsere Bischöfin" begrüßt werde.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

People did know that this 'stuff' was wrong

Today's Irish Times gives over much space to church affairs, including a piece on the current crisis in Germany. There is also a powerful open letter to Dr Diarmuid Martin.

The article below is well worth a read and Fr McCarthy has been speaking in clear and reasoned tones on what is going on at present in the Dublin archdiocese.

In one paragraph below he says, "Thirty years ago, there was little professional or general awareness of child sexual abuse, and no guidelines for dealing with it (6.53). We must not judge people for what was done or not done in the past by the knowledge and standards of practice we rightly expect today."

Constantly church personnel stress that 30 or so years ago, people were not 'aware'. That is not so. I can still remember my mother being abhorred when in 1961 she heard of how an older teenager had allegedly abused a younger boy. Neither boy was in any way connected to her - just neighbours and one of them a friend of her son. Her immediate reaction was to report the matter to the police.

In the mid 1980s I expressed concern about issues dealing with sexuality that were being swept under the carpet by the church and needed discussion. I was laughed at and told in a most pompous manner that I did not know what I was talking about.

And anway, how come the church was so insistent on proclaiming it knew exactly what 'the mind of God' was in all matters sexual?

Time for a reasoned and critical analysis of Murphy report

RITE AND REASON: THE MURPHY/Dublin report has been a primary source of news since November 26th. I am not aware of any journalist or professional commentator who has yet taken a critical look at the report. This is extraordinary. We have been dismayed and shocked at the report, but we must not lose our capacity for rational thought.

It is a welcome report. It vindicates those who have been abused, and those who were received with less than full care when they brought the matter to the notice of the diocese. It is a service also to the State and to the church. It takes us from the area of rumour and speculation and allows us to deal with facts.

It also challenges the church in its structures, values and personnel to deep renewal in its mission of truth and reconciliation, of hope and healing. For the protection of all, we need to implement genuine collective responsibility. Abuse of any person, child or adult, is an abomination. No society can guarantee to prevent abuse entirely, but we can do far better, church and State.

The facts of cases are stated clearly. However, some conclusions drawn from the facts seem inconsistent with reality.

The report rejects (1.14) the claim that diocesan authorities were on a learning curve up to the late 1990s. This is contradicted by evidence in the report, as also by the experience of Irish society.

Thirty years ago, there was little professional or general awareness of child sexual abuse, and no guidelines for dealing with it (6.53). We must not judge people for what was done or not done in the past by the knowledge and standards of practice we rightly expect today.

The report claims (1,7) that abuse of children by priests was “widespread” in the diocese. Diocesan statistics (November 2009) show that 5 per cent of priests between 1940 and 2009 have had allegations made against them. This is 5 per cent too much, but 5 per cent is not “widespread”. If 5 per cent of journalists had such allegations against them, and an official report described this as “widespread” abuse, journalists would protest strongly.

The report does not set its findings in the context of Irish (and world) society. We cannot know whether the diocese was worse or better than other bodies without more information. Diocesan records were very well kept. The report says (1.98,2.19) that Health Service Executive and Garda records are deficient.

Investigations are needed in law, education, health, sport and other areas, so that we can know how the report’s findings relate to management of abuse by the rest of society.

Cover-up and confidentiality may be confused in some cases. The report itself “covers up” by using pseudonyms for good purposes, not to deceive. People and institutions (even The Irish Times ) often seek to protect their reputation.

The report assesses 45 cases. Handling by the diocese in 25 of them receives approval from the commission, even by today’s standards. Not good enough, definitely, but far from media impressions that the report is simply unrelieved disaster.

Some criticise “questioning . . . the credibility of the Murphy report” (letter from One-In-Four, published February 6th). However, unquestioning acceptance could result in further injustice. Reasonable questioning of conclusions, without denying the harm done, can only help us learn for the future.

The Irish Times editorial of November 27th last stated: “The vast majority of uninvolved priests turned a blind eye. This is a serious and gratuitous accusation against many priests, living and dead. It appears to be a misreading of the report, paragraph 1.24. Following representations, a correction was published on December 16th which said: “This related to those priests who were aware that particular instances of abuse had occurred.” This does not alter the serious accusation against the “vast majority”.

The Irish Times insists that the correction is adequate. Readers may judge. It is sad that the newspaper has not issued the apology due for the original statement. Even if the correction were adequate, impersonal correction without apology to those accused does not meet even normal human courtesy standards.

There has been undoubted failure of collective responsibility in the governance of Ireland’s financial affairs. Media demand for resignations in government and in boards of banks seems significantly less intense than in the case of bishops. Why should this be?

I do not claim a monopoly of wisdom on the matter. I write to encourage reasoned debate about the report. This debate should have already happened. I have written about this at greater length in the current issue of the Furrow.

Fr McCarthy, a retired priest of Dublin diocese, writes in a personal capacity

Bishop at the wheel

With constant media watch, little is left unnoticed.

This is a report in the Bild newspaper in Germany of the police in Hannover apprehending the head of the German Prorestant Church, Bishop Margot Kaesmann for alledged drink driving.

If the German chancellor were stopped by the police for a similar offence would it make it to the newspapers. Then she would not be driving her own car.

If a high official of Bild Zeitung were apprehended by the police would Bild publish the story?

It's the way of the world.

Are we all turning our backs on people in authority and church officials are easy prey?

Die Ratsvorsitzende der Evangelischen Kirche in Deutschland, Margot Käßmann, ist mit Alkohol am Steuer erwischt worden. Nach einem Bericht der „Bild“-Zeitung stoppten Streifenpolizisten die höchste Würdenträgerin der Evangelischen Kirche in Deutschland (EKD) am vergangenen Samstag gegen 23 Uhr in der Innenstadt von Hannover.

Käßmann hatte mit ihrem Dienstwagen eine rote Ampel überfahren. Bei der Kontrolle rochen die Beamten Alkohol und unterzogen Käßmann einem Atemalkoholtest. Das Ergebnis lag laut „Bild“-Zeitung bei etwa 1,3 Promille. Die Bischöfin musste deshalb für eine Blutabnahme mit auf die Wache. Den Beamten gegenüber habe Käßmann angegeben, bloß ein Glas Wein getrunken zu haben, berichtet "Bild".

Das Ergebnis der Blutuntersuchung ist jedoch noch viel höher als das Ergebnis des Atemtests: Demnach lag der Alkoholgehalt im Blut von Käßmann bei 1,54 Promille, wie Staatsanwalt Jürgen Lendeckel mitteilte. Ein Ermittlungsverfahren gegen die Bischöfin sei deshalb bereits eingeleitet worden.

Der Bischöfin drohen ein einjähriger Führerscheinentzug und eine Geldstrafe von einem Monatsgehalt. Ob Käßmann bei der erneuten Beantragung des Führerscheins eine Medizinisch-Psychologische Untersuchung – den sogenannten „Idiotentest“ – absolvieren muss, wird die Führerscheinstelle entscheiden müssen.

Die Bischöfin zeigt Reue: „Ich bin über mich selbst erschrocken, dass ich einen so schlimmen Fehler gemacht habe“, zitiert "Bild" die EKD-Ratsvorsitzende. „Mir ist bewusst, wie gefährlich und unverantwortlich Alkohol am Steuer ist. Den rechtlichen Konsequenzen werde ich mich selbstverständlich stellen.“

Die Mutter von vier Töchtern bekleidet seit Oktober 2009 das Amt der Repräsentantin von 25 Millionen Protestanten in Deutschland. Ihre Besetzung war nicht unumstritten: Unter anderem stand Käßmann wegen der Scheidung von dem Vater ihrer Kinder sowie wegen umstrittener Äußerungen in der Kritik.

2009 sorgte sie für Aufsehen, weil sie nicht mehr genutzte Kirchen lieber abreißen lassen wollte, als sie Gebäude Muslimen als Gebetshäuser zu überlassen. Zudem attackierte sie immer wieder die römisch-katholische Kirche wegen deren Haltung gegenüber Homosexualität und der Verbreitung von Kondomen. Zuletzt kritisiert sie den Einsatz der Bundeswehr in Afghanistan.


The German story will not be pleasant

Germany is about to enter the child church sex abuse scandal. And it will not be a pleasant story.

In the late 1980s in a small parish in Germany a mother said to me that she would not allow her children go near the parochial house. And then she recalled to me her experience.

That is the truth.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A politically astute organisation

Francis Hunt has launched a blog under the name Attempted Essays.

In the statement from Rome during the week there was no reference made to the fact that child abuse within the church is something that has been going on a long time. Indeed, if one reads the statement carefully there might be an attempt to link modern 'secular' thinking with what has happened. Of course nothing could be further from the truth.

It would seem the oxygen that is central to all of this is the church's almost paranoia with secrecy. And that whole culture would seem to run counter to the life and style of Jesus Christ.

The institutional church seems to behave more or less like any modern State. Diplomatic services around the world openly admit that the Vatican is top of the list when it comes to diplomacy. But is that really the role of the church?

The non show of the Archbishop of Dublin at the press conference in Rome is mesmerising. Was it that he did not want to be associated with the other bishops? Is it that the pope has decided to listen to Diarmuid Martin and has relegated the rest of the Irish bishops to the background?

Obviously a powerful political game is taking place. How can one connect this to Gospel values? How can one explain all this 'stuff' to people who have sworn allegiance and obedience to Holy Mother Church?

Of course it has been noted and commented on but in the midst of all the pictures, statements, photographs there has not been one single woman in sight. And to think that at the centre of all this terrible abuse is sexuality - a sexuality that has been perverted. Not a word about how possible is it for a man to live a celibate life and at the same time lead a full, healthy and normal life.

Is it unfair to say that there is something wrong right at the centre of the hierarchical church?

Maybe celibacy 'works' for a minuscule number of priests but the evidence all around would suggest that it is an extraordinary burden that can drive men mad. And in the process the games that are played out are simply obscene.

It is also always important to keep things in perspective; priests account for a tiny proportion of child abusers.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Nothing to tell and a missing archbishop

People will be disappointed with the outcome of the meeting between the pope and the Irish bishops. For anyone to have expected anything else was simply fanciful dreaming. That's the way of the world, that's what governments do, that's what large powerful organisations do. Remember this meeting was held in the Apostolic Palace.

The photograph on the front page of yesterday's Irish Times of a bishop kissing the pope's hand/ring surely had to say to the Irish people that there could be no possibility of open and honest dialogue between these two men. Look at the bishop's body language and the pope's too.

And then yesterday the Irish bishops held a press conference. Remember this Rome meeting was called mainly because of the report into the Dublin archdiocese, and the Archbishop of Dublin was not at the press conference. Diarmuid Martin said he had to attend a meeting at UCD this morning.

Is that not breathtaking arrogance?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

After the horse has bolted

Why always after the horse has bolted? And not just the Jesuits. Now the rector of the Jesuit school in Bonn has resigned.

What went on in schools? What went on in boarding schools? Unless dioceses and religious orders and congregations play a pro active role in making a genuine effort in doing a full and honest discovery, then dioceses, religious orders and congregations must not utter one word about current procedures. If they hide and protect perpetrators then all the current words and actions are PR spin.

Below are extremely interesting thoughts from CDU politician Heiner Geissler about the church. The Germans will not let this go. Geissler was a novice with the Jesuits.

I hope the words of Geissler will be read by every Irish provinical, will be deemed essential reading for all novice and student masters and regents of studies.

Many years ago when there was all the fuss about girl altar servers and the Vatican was objecting - remember the nonsense of that - the archdiocese of Cologne informed the Vatican that it intended going ahead with girls as altar servers and then reminded Rome that it was the church's second wealthiest diocese in the world. All argument was over

Thankfully the current president of the German bishops' conference Archbishop Robert Zollitsch is a good and honest man and is free of so much of that clerical cant that has done and does such harm.

What has begun in the German church is a tide that will take no prisoners. The world will see that the Irish church is no exception and we will also see that nothing has changed. What was it the 'Vatican official' said some weeks ago.

Luckily there are people such as the Arrchbishop of Mainz and Zollitsch at the helm of the German church right now. And it so happens neither is the closest of friends with Rome.

Article below is from Der Tagesspiegel newspaper which is the most widely read daily newspaper in Berlin.

Der Skandal um sexuellen Missbrauch an Jesuiten-Schulen in Deutschland hat erste personelle Konsequenzen. Der Rektor des Bonner Aloisius-Kollegs, Pater Theo Schneider, trat mit sofortiger Wirkung zurück.

Hamburg/Bonn/München - Das teilte die Deutsche Provinz der Jesuiten am Montagabend in München mit. Er wolle damit eine "lückenlose Aufklärung aller im Raum stehenden, einschließlich der gegen seine eigene Person gerichteten Vorwürfe" ermöglichen. Der Vorsitzende der katholischen Deutschen Bischofskonferenz, Erzbischof Robert Zollitsch, will sich aktuell nicht zu dem Missbrauchsskandal äußern.

Nach Einschätzung des CDU-Politikers Heiner Geißler trägt die Kirche mit ihrer "Erziehung zu einer verklemmten Sexualität" viel Schuld an den jetzt bekanntgewordenen Missbrauchsfällen. Das sagte er dem WDR am Dienstag in der Sendung "eins zu eins". Geißler war Schüler am Kolleg St. Blasien im Schwarzwald, in dem unter anderem Missbrauchsfälle bekanntgeworden waren. Später war der Novize im Jesuitenorden.

Der Politiker sagte dem Sender zu den Missbrauchsfällen: "Ich habe so etwas nie erlebt und von so etwas auch nie gehört, ich würde sagen, das, was da aufgedeckt wurde, ist atypisch für den Jesuitenorden. Das Neue ist, und das ist etwas Positives, dass die Führung der Jesuiten in die Öffentlichkeit gegangen ist, das muss ein Vorbild sein für die Katholische Kirche, die immer eine Vertuschungspolitik betrieben hat." Die Kirche müsse endlich den Zölibat abschaffen. In den Priesterseminaren müsse über die Sexualitätsfrage offen geredet werden, "sonst kriegen wir noch mehr dieser Vorfälle".

Eine Sprecherin der Bischofskonferenz sagte am Dienstag der Deutschen Presse-Agentur dpa in Bonn, die Bischofskonferenz werde sich auf ihrer Frühjahrsvollversammlung vom 22. bis 25. Februar in Freiburg mit den Berichten über sexuellen Missbrauch beschäftigen. Papst Benedikt XVI. hatte am Montag allgemein die Verletzung der "Rechte des Kindes" verurteilt. Leider hätten "auch einige Kirchenmitglieder diese Rechte verletzt".

Der Nachfolger eines unter Missbrauchverdacht geratenen Paters im Bistum Hildesheim hat jahrelang zu den ihm bekannten Vorwürfen geschwiegen. Er habe seinen Vorgänger als sehr schwierigen Menschen erlebt, einen echten Eigenbrötler. "Ich wusste, dass es um Missbrauchsvorwürfe ging", sagte der Diakon der Katholischen Gemeinde "Guter Hirt", Wilfried Otto, laut Spiegel-Online. Er hätte "die Bombe damals platzen lassen sollen", sei aber zum Schweigen angewiesen worden. Auf Nachfrage war der Diakon, der 1997 die direkte Nachfolge des Paters antrat, am Dienstag nicht zu erreichen.

Von allen drei deutschen Jesuiten-Gymnasien - dem Canisius-Kolleg in Berlin, St. Blasien im Schwarzwald und dem Bonner Aloisius-Kolleg - sowie einer ehemaligen Ordensschule in Hamburg sind Missbrauchsfälle bekannt. Die meisten ereigneten sich in den 70er und 80er Jahren. Die Zahl der Opfer summiert sich auf etwa 40.

Zwei frühere Patres des Berliner Kollegs sollen sich an Schülern vergangen haben. Ein dritter Geistlicher, der Anfang der 70er Jahre auch in Berlin unterrichtete, gestand sexuelle Übergriffe auf Jugendliche in Hannover. Inzwischen wurden auch Missbrauchsfälle in anderen kirchlichen Einrichtungen bekannt. Bundesweit sollen nach einem Bericht des "Spiegel" fast 100 Mitarbeiter der katholischen Kirche in den vergangenen 15 Jahren unter Verdacht geraten sein. (dpa)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Time to uncover our past and speak out

The article below which appears in today's Irish Times surely has to be the catalyst to stir people to tear off the veil of silence. It has always been a terrible tool used by people in authority. It was a pseudo morality that never made sense.

RITE & REASON: Why were we so silent on child abuse? Why didn’t we speak up?

IN ORDER to respond appropriately to those who were abused by priests, we need to explore clerical culture, since research attests that it does contribute to the promotion of immaturity, arrested development and irresponsibility.

For example, early research by Conrad Baars and Anna Terruwe on priesthood within western Europe and North America in 1971 revealed that only 10-15 per cent of priests were mature; 60-70 per cent suffered from a degree of emotional immaturity; and 20-25 per cent had serious psychiatric difficulties. Ironically, these findings were never acted on.

Culture is defined as a shared system of beliefs and values. It has within it a cognitive, emotional and behavioural dimension.

Clerical culture influences the way a priest or bishop may think about a certain issue, feel about it and respond to it. However, like any culture, its ills cannot be addressed solely from within. Think of Northern Ireland. It was with the support of outside sources, particularly George Mitchell, that the road towards peace began.

For clerical culture, new structures are not sufficient, as there appears to be an innate “abuse system” within this culture. Even though it may now be forced to address the issue of sexual abuse, “abuse” may rear its ugly face in other forms.

One disturbing aspect for me is what I call a “convenient silence”. Why were we so silent? Why didn’t we speak up?

It is also the question asked by the Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer of the churches during the second World War. Bonhoeffer came, like most of us, from one of the mainline churches. However, as a result of a visit to the storefront churches in New York he would be changed forever.

Here he witnessed the spirit-filled worship of African- Americans. He was deeply moved as he remembered how they were captured, tortured, enslaved and here they were full of passion and hope in contrast to the sedate and passive ritual of his own church.

Despite being asked to stay in the safety of New York, he felt he had to return home to confront the Nazi movement in Germany.

He joined the Resistance and eventually was captured and executed by the Nazis.

For Bonhoeffer, one big question was: “Why were the churches so silent?”

I have observed the same silence, as in my time I have witnessed theologians being marginalised as Vatican II has been dismantled, and as the innocent in Ireland were sexually abused by brother priests. I am also part of this silence.

What causes this muteness that allows evil to flourish? It is my belief that people of my generation were conditioned by the church to distrust themselves.

Take, for example, a non-Catholic neighbour who died 40 years ago.

His/her Catholic friends were unable to pray in church with his grieving family. For most people at the time, this didn’t make sense.

Their own integrity was telling them that it was absurd.

However, such personal thoughts and beliefs were dismissed even to the point that people considered them sinful. In other words, we distrusted our own integrity and conformed with the directions of the church. And since we were made keep our thoughts to ourselves, we remained silent.

This behaviour was reinforced in our seminary training. We were conditioned to surrender to the institution, to the teachings, structures and disciplines of the church. Upon ordination we made a promise of obedience to the local bishop, and even our own letter of acceptance of a diocesan post was scripted for us.

Think of the docility of priests. A new bishop is appointed to a diocese and he decides to change direction.

The priests follow until another incumbent arrives and they are ready to go again in whatever direction he decides.

Tragically, it is within this culture that the governance of the church takes place and we are all guilty by association. It may be convenient to suggest that the auxiliary bishops must step down, but surely it is more honest to ask all of our generation to step down, ensuring a new beginning for all.


Dr Derek Smyth is a priest in Foxrock parish, Co Dublin. Prior to that he had been director of Emmanuel House, Santa Ana, California, where he worked as a psychotherapist. He has co-authored two books, Being There and Defusing the Bomb

Disillusioned, goodbye

A George Lee act within priesthood?

Young German ends it all under a train

This article appeared in the Weekend supplement of Saturday's Irish Times.
It is an all too familiar story.

Again, what did the Vatican official say some weeks ago?

Hopefully a story such as this will spur on leaders of church institutions in Ireland to become actively engaged in taking an active role in searching out victims of abuse.

Unfortunately, the days of secrets are not over. They need to be.

The now familiar narrative of systematic abuse of children by priests has scandalised Germans, but campaigners fear the church’s perceived lack of will to change will deny victims justice, writes DEREK SCALLY in Berlin

IT IS 23 YEARS since Adam threw himself in front of a train. His family never knew why. Nor did they know until this week that, months before his death, the 24-year-old had tracked down Fr Peter, a former teacher who had abused him at Berlin’s elite Canisius College.

Adam found the Jesuit priest in the western city of Hildesheim in 1986, confronted him with a knife and stabbed him several times in the chest before fleeing. The priest was seriously injured and was rushed to hospital for treatment, but never pressed charges.

“It seems like others knew earlier what went on in Canisius College, but only now does it seem to concern us,” said Adam’s mother this week to German television. “Abuse seems to be everywhere.”

After years of watching Ireland’s unfolding clerical abuse drama, Germany now has its own home-grown scandal. What started at Berlin’s top Catholic school has, within a week, exploded into a familiar, depressing narrative. Physical violence against children; the sickening abuse of trust by priests; and the cowardly decision to move the abusers on to new pastures and new victims rather than dealing with the problem.

Germany’s Catholic church has not been immune to abuse allegations over the years but, until now, abusing priests were portrayed as isolated black sheep.

But that has changed with revelations of systematic abuse at Canisius College, founded in 1925 and still one of Berlin’s most exclusive schools.

Last month the principal, Fr Klaus Mertes, wrote, in an open letter to former pupils, of his shock and shame at the abuse allegations he had heard after being approached by former pupils. Worse, he said, was how an internal investigation revealed its systematic nature, encouraged by the school’s “culture of looking the other way”.

The Canisius allegations concern three Jesuit priests now in their 60s, all of whom are no longer in the order.

The first, Fr Wolfgang Stab, taught German, religion and physical education at the Berlin school from 1975 to 1979, and later at schools in Hamburg and in the Black Forest. Today, former pupils at all three schools tell of “excessive physical punishment rituals”.

“If we got bad grades, we were forced to lie naked across his lap for a spanking,” said one former student.

The priest moved to Chile in 1985 and left the order in 1992. He has admitted abuse and, last week, asked his victims for forgiveness.

More serious claims surround Fr Peter Riedel – the priest stabbed by a former pupil – who taught at Canisius College from 1971 to 1981.

“He would ask us if we had thought about girls and, if we admitted masturbating, had to show him how. We had to let ourselves be touched,” recalled another victim.

Fr Peter continued to work as a priest after leaving the Jesuits in 1995. In every posting – in Göttingen, Hanover and even Mexico – he faced allegations of sexual abuse of young girls. Letters of complaint were found this week in his file – unanswered.

Colleagues who asked why the priest was moved around so frequently were told a vague story about “financial irregularities” in his previous parish. Fr Peter lives in an upmarket neighbourhood of Berlin and denies all charges.

A third abusing priest who worked as a religion teacher in Canisius College in 1970-71 has since been identified as Bernhard Ehlert, head of a leading Catholic Third World charity. He resigned on Wednesday after he admitted abusing boys early in his career at the school.

Cardinal Georg Sterzinski, archbishop of Berlin, has weighed into the scandal, calling an emergency meeting on Tuesday of all Catholic school heads in the archdiocese. Already Fr Mertes of Canisius College is convinced he has gone public with just “the tip of the iceberg”.

“What has become visible with us happened at other schools,” he told Berlin’s Tagesspiegel newspaper. “But it is a disaster for the Jesuits because the heart of our order is the teacher-pupil relationship. What has happened here is the worst possible betrayal of our spirituality.” Former victims have few legal options: most child abuse offences in Germany can no longer be prosecuted after the victim turns 18; other abuse crimes fall outside the statute of limitations after five years.

Seasoned child welfare campaigners are doubtful that the Canisius College revelations will have a long-term effect.

“This scandal will end with the usual empty phrases and the church will sit it out until the next time,” says Johannes Heibel, founder of Germany’s Initiative Against Child Abuse.

“The church has to show from its side that is anxious to clear this up, to admit that this is not about individual cases, but I don’t see any indication of that willingness yet and we don’t have the means in Germany to exert real pressure.”

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Berliners will not let this go away

Again, today's Berliner Morgenpost carries more information about the Jesuit school in Berlin.

Central to the current story is the qurstion why it was all kept 'in secret' for so long.

And that is a key to so much of the problem, especially within the hierarchical church - the obsession with secrecy. This sort of secrecy is part of the oxygen that has allowed so much harm to tkae place.

Again, can the Vatican now really repeat with any sort of credibility what an official said some weeks ago? Will that same Vatican official be sitting at the table when the pope meets the Irish bishops?

Why will they not admit there is a real problem and that the matter needs open, honest, brave and charismatic study?

The people of Berlin will not let this go away.

What follows is in today's Berliner Morgenpost.
Im Fall des sexuellen Missbrauchs am Berliner Canisius-Kolleg hält die Opfer-Anwältin Manuela Groll mögliche Zivilklagen für erfolgversprechend.

„Die strafrechtliche Verjährung dürfte eingetreten sein, aber die zivilrechtliche Verjährung, die dürfte noch nicht eingetreten sein“, sagte Groll am Donnerstag im RBB-Sender Radioeins.

Klagen werde man voraussichtlich gegen einzelne mutmaßliche Täter sowie gegen den Jesuiten-Orden insgesamt. Ihr Mandant wolle als Hauptbevollmächtigter auftreten, so dass weitere Opfer sich an ihn wenden könnten.

Ihren Mandanten gehe es nicht um Geld, sagte Groll. Man wolle wissen, „wer hat wann wo versagt, wie konnte es dazu kommen und wie konnte es dazu kommen, dass so lange nicht aufgedeckt wurde“. Zudem gehe es auch um Genugtuung für die Geschädigten: „Denen reicht eine Entschuldigung nicht aus.“

Ein weiterer Anwalt von Opfern am Canisius-Kolleg will zudem eine Sammelklage gegen den Orden in den USA prüfen. Dafür gelte es herauszufinden, ob ehemalige Schüler die US-Staatsbürgerschaft haben, sagte Anwalt Lukas Kawka. „Die finanziellen Konsequenzen wären dann für den Jesuitenorden desaströs.“ Geprüft werde aber zuerst eine außergerichtliche Einigung.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Ireland is no exception especially at cover up

What was it some 'Vatican official said last month? It was difficult to believe it then what he said - more diffiuclt now.

Surely the hierarchical church should be honest and tell the world that we owe our loyalty and faithfulness to the truth. Nothing less is good enough.

Those who can read German are recommended to read what appears in today's Berliner Morgenpost.

Jesuit und Hilfswerkgründer zeigt sich selbst an
Mittwoch, 3. Februar 2010 16:07 - Von Joachim Fahrun

Er ist bekannt, auf Fotos mit Prominenten zu sehen, die seine Arbeit unterstützen. Denn Pater Bernhard Ehlen ist der Gründer des Hilfswerkes "Ärzte für die 3. Welt". Doch nun hat sich Ehlen, der einst auch Lehrer am Berliner Canisius-Kolleg war, zu einem Fall von Kindesmissbrauch bekannt. Der Orden wusste schon länger davon, drängte ihn einst, den Vorstandsvorsitz im Hilfswerk aufzugeben. Doch nur ein weiterer Vorstand wurde informiert und schwieg.

Der dritte Jesuit, über den in den vergangenen Tagen Vorwürfe wegen des sexuellen Missbrauchs bekannt geworden sind, ist der mit Abstand prominenteste: Pater Bernhard Ehlen, Gründer des Hilfswerkes „Ärzte für die 3. Welt“ mit Sitz in Frankfurt am Main. „Bernhard Ehlen ist mit sofortiger Wirkung als Vorstand zurückgetreten und ist auch nicht mehr Vereinsmitglied“, teilte der Generalsekretär des Hilfswerks, Harald Kischlat mit.

Dem Jesuitenorden seien Hinweise auf Vergehen des Priesters seit 2005 bekannt, sagte Kischlat. Im Vorstand des Hilfswerkes wurde jedoch nur eine einzige Person informiert, die 2008 das Führungsgremium verlassen habe und am Mittwoch wie Ehlen ebenfalls aus dem Verein ausgetreten sei. Ehlen selbst wurde damals vom Orden gedrängt, den Vorsitz des Vorstandes und die Geschäftsführung aufzugeben, die 2006 Kischlat übernahm.

Ehlen hat nun auf Druck des Jesuitenordens Selbstanzeige gestellt. Ihm wurden in Zusammenhang mit der Welle von Missbrauchsvorwürfen rund um das Berliner Canisius Kolleg - an dem Ehlen einst unterrichtete - von Opfern drei Übergriffe zur Last gelegt.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Gardaí are given the run around

From today's Irish Times webpage.

It's a familiar story. So too is the paragraph in red. As recently as October 2009. Nothing has changed. Indeed, it often seems church authorities promote the men who facilitate the 'run arounds'.

Ex-priest jailed for abusing boy
A former Catholic priest who sexually abused a young boy over 30 years ago and fled the country because of “adverse publicity” before gardaí could interview him has been jailed for one year.

Patrick Hughes (82), of Parkdunne Court, Castleknock, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to four counts of indecent assault against the child, then an altar boy, aged between 11 and 14 years old, on dates between 1979 and 1983. The maximum penalty for the offence is two years.

The court heard during the initial sentence hearing last October that gardaí attempting to investigate the abuse were “given the run around by Church authorities” in their efforts to locate Hughes for questioning.

Detective Sergeant Joseph McLoughlin told by Judge Katherine Delahunt that gardaí located Hughes in England on a tip-off over 10 years after first being made aware of the allegations.

Judge Delahunt said the offences had represented a gross breach of trust”.

She acknowledged that “adverse publicity” had caused Hughes to flee Ireland but noted that he had sought rehabilitation and treatment while out of the jurisdiction and had made a voluntary statement when he eventually returned.

She accepted that his plea of guilty had “saved the victim the horror of having to relive” the abuse and that he had since shown remorse for his actions.

Det Sgt McLoughlin told the court the boy was abused by Hughes in a parochial house, on trips to the beach and in his car. The abuse consisted of fondling the boy’s genital area. The priest also took photographs of the boy in swim wear and showed him “mild” porn.

Remy Farrell, defending, read from a statement prepared by Hughes in which he “profoundly apologises for the distress I have caused this gentleman and his family”.

The boy also reported the priest giving him money on one occasion and taking locks of his hair.

Det Sgt McLoughlin said the boy’s mother asked him if he had been abused some years later after she read a newspaper story about Hughes and he broke down and told her what had happened to him.

He told Mr Farrell, during cross examination, that a complaint was made to gardaí in 1995 but that the investigation “ran into the sand”.

He said the victim contacted the Garda Commissioner in 2002 to check on the status of the case but efforts to locate the accused man proved fruitless.

Det Sgt McLoughlin agreed with Mr Farrell that gardaí were “getting the run around from Church authorities.”

He said they were initially unable locate the accused man through the Archbishop’s Palace but a “liaison priest” contacted him in 2003 and said the accused wished to speak to gardaí. He said that a few days before the meeting was to take place he received a call to say the accused would not be attending.

He said that was the last that he heard about the accused man’s location and efforts to find him were unsuccessful until gardaí received a tip-off and made contact with the man in 2007.

Det Sgt McLoughlin said the accused, who has no previous convictions, told gardaí he remembered the boy and admitted touching him inappropriately. He said his memory was not great and he expressed remorse.

A glimmer of hope

Maybe there is a glimmer of hope within the hierarchical church. At last people have the wisdom and courage to question bishops.

Of course it will continue to be the 'usual suspects' who will be appointed bishops. Nevertheless, maybe there is something a-stirring within the priestly class.

The sycophancy and nonsense that has surrounded ecclesiastical authority has been absurd and so dangerous.

The Holy Spirit works in wondrous ways.

Great words from Brenda Fricker

Irish actor Brenda Fricker was interviewed by Gay Byrne on RTE One Television on Sunday evening.

She is the third high profile person to have been interviewed in the series, which is excellent.

Brenda Fricker mentioned that regularly 'priests put their hand up her skirt'. This is simply shocking and appalling. Where are all these priests, who did these terrible things.

One gets sick to death hearing this 'stuff'. These are men who belong to an organisation that has told the world it knows the 'mind of God' on all things sexual.

There has to be a systemic problem here. Yes, there is an institutional problem.

And all the time lurking in the background is the issue of misogyny and closet homosexuality. This in an organisation that claims to speak with such 'clarity'.

All the talk, all the word of regret and anyone who has an insight into the Irish church will know that nothing is changing. As Marie Collins correctly says, it is just the strategy that is changing.

Compare the words of Brenda Fricker with words and utterances from any bishop and something hits you straight in the face - clarity.