The New York Times, 01.04.2010

BERLIN (Reuters) – The Roman Catholic Church in Germany said on Tuesday it had opened a hotline for victims of child abuse, and a new poll suggested the abuse scandal could cost the Church members.

Bishop Stephan Ackermann, who speaks on sexual abuse for the German Bishops‘ Conference, said the hotline was part of a Church effort to shed light on the abuse and bring the perpetrators to account.

„We will do everything possible to make sure sexual abuse in the Catholic Church never happens again,“ he told a news conference in Trier, western Germany.

„Child abuse is a terrible crime“ and those guilty of it should confess, he said.

„The theme of sexual abuse should no longer be treated as a taboo. We all must learn how to talk about it openly.“

Germany has followed the lead of Ireland, Austria and the Netherlands in establishing hotlines for victims of Church abuse. In recent months, numerous allegations of sexual and physical abuse by priests have surfaced in these countries.

In Germany, more than 250 Catholics have registered alleged abuse cases, most of them occurring at Catholic boarding schools several decades ago.

The Vatican has denied that German-born Pope Benedict was involved in a decision, when archbishop of Munich in 1980, to return a priest undergoing therapy for sexual abuse to work.

The Pope’s brother, Georg Ratzinger, also admitted to doling out corporal punishment when he taught at a German school.

The growing scandal could hurt Church membership according to a Forsa survey for Stern magazine, which showed 19 percent of Germany’s estimated 25 million Catholics were thinking about leaving the Church in response to the sexual abuse scandal.


Andreas Zimmer, director of counselling services for the diocese, said the hotline could refer adult victims, who can remain anonymous, to a lawyer. The hotline is required to report cases concerning children to authorities.

„The victims must decide if they want to report something. We are not an investigation hotline. We are a counselling hotline,“ Zimmer said.

The Dutch hotline has received 1,100 calls since early March and similar services in Austrian dioceses have recorded 566 contacts this year. But an advocate for German victims said the latest hotline would do little for victims.

„In my view, this isn’t helpful. The bishops who launched this hotline have to answer for the fact that they kept silent about abuse in the Church for years,“ said Norbert Denef, spokesman for NetzwerkB, a German sexual abuse victims group.

„How can a victim call and say I need help from the very people responsible for the abuse? That doesn’t make any sense.“

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