Alan Nothnagle

Alan Nothnagle
Location
Berlin, Germany
Birthday
May 04
Company
Baobab House Publishers
Bio
I am a freelance writer and YA author based in Berlin.

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JULY 16, 2010 11:21AM

Bishop's resignation shifts attention to Protestant abuse

Rate: 9 Flag

 Maria Jepsen
Former Hamburg Bishop Maria Jepsen

(Deutschlandradio)

 

AFTER FOLLOWING THE NEWS stories of the past few months, you might have gained the impression that the Catholic Church is in essence a giant pedophile ring. But this perception is unfair – not because it is untrue, but because it insinuates that Catholics have a monopoly on systemic child abuse. In fact, hierarchical religions of all kinds attract pedophiles to their ranks, including the Catholics’ main Central European competitor, Protestantism. A high-level resignation today once more casts a sombre light on what increasingly appears to be organized religion’s “original sin.”

 

Back in 1992, Maria Jepsen née Bregas made history by becoming the first of only three women bishops in Germany’s Protestant (Lutheran and/or Reformed) Church - in fact, she was the first female Lutheran bishop in the world. She single-handedly revitalized German Protestantism with her outspoken feminist positions and unorthodox beliefs – for example, her open support for gay marriage and her honest conviction that Mary could not have been a virgin. Today, the charismatic Bishop of the North Elbian State Church made history once more by becoming the second of the three to resign in disgrace (the other was Hanover Bishop Margot Kässmann, who left office after her arrest for drunk driving back in February of this year).

 

This time, however, a Protestant bishop was not driven out of office for what she did, but rather for what she didn’t do. According to a report by the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel on July 12, the popular and outspoken Jepsen had learned as early as 1999 of the systematic, decades-long sexual abuse of underage boys and girls at the hands of a certain Pastor Dieter K. of Ahrensburg, and not only in March of this year, as she had previously claimed, and failed to act on her knowledge. 

Jepsen and Ramazan Ucar 
A voice of tolerance:
Bishop Jepsen in a photo op with Hamburg
imam Ramazan Ucar
(ndr)

According to Der Spiegel, the local church administration had quietly relieved Pastor K., who had also abused three of his own stepsons, of his duties already in 1999 and transferred him to a new job as a prison pastor, where he would be far removed from any contact with children. However, it never made the reasons for this transfer public, thus allowing the pastor to seek a new job as a high school religion teacher in the same town without a word to the school administration. (Pastor K. retired in 2001.) Jepsen, it seems, knew all about the case but did nothing. She informed neither the state church authorities nor the public prosecutor, which would have been the standard procedure in such a case.

 

The North Elbian Church only began investigating the matter in March of this year – although the abuse charges against Pastor K., like the charges levied against disgraced bishop Walter Mixa, are statute-barred due to the passage of time. For her part, the sixty-five year-old Jepsen claims to have known only about rumors of an adult affair - distateful, perhaps, but entirely legal. “The word abuse was never used, otherwise I would have become restless,” she said in a recent interview. But the woman who first told her of the matter in 1999 – a sister of one of the victims – recently signed an affidavit calling the bishop a liar. Jepsen announced her resignation at a press conference this afternoon, telling journalists that her loss of "credibility" had made it impossible for her to continue in office.

 

Jepsen’s departure comes during a period when more and more claims of child abuse are being levied against the Protestant Church and its myriad institutions and initiatives. So far the numbers involved are only a fraction of those identified in the Catholic Church, but after all, the investigation is only just beginning. In the meantime, Germany’s Catholic abuse scandal drags on with new accusations and investigations, including charges laid against forty-four priests in the Freiburg diocese alone. On July 8, Freiburg archbishop Robert Zollitsch, who also serves as chairman of the German Bishop Conference, admitted to the press that he had been aware of many of the cases now under investigation much earlier than previously stated, and he formally apologized to the public for “personal errors” in his non-pursuit of the perpetrators. In June the Freiburg public prosecutor's office opened a full-scale investigation of His Grace "as an accessory to the sexual abuse of children."

 

Robert Zollitsch 
"Personal errors":

Robert Zollitsch, Archbishop of Freiburg
(pressrelations.de)

   

Despite all this bad press, young German men continue to study for the priesthood, whose ranks are growing by approximately 100 new padres each year. In contrast to earlier practices, the Church is focusing on the problems of the celibate lifestyle and pedophilia in an effort to head off child abuse before the public prosecutor needs to be called in. Too little, too late, you might say, but faced with a problem as intractable as this one perhaps we should thank heaven for small miracles.

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Pedophilia is related to neither celibacy nor homosexuality. It is a psychological "para-philia," which is its own category. Those who want to have sex only with children have no desire to marry adults, thus relaxation of the celibacy rules, which would no doubt increase the number of ordinations, would have no effect on the incidence of pedophilia. Pedophiles will still prey on children, whether their own or others'.

Conflating homosexuality, celibacy and pedophilia is a very bad idea because it does nothing to address the problem, only clouds the argument with irrelevancies.
@Scribblenerd
Very true. The real problem here is, I believe, neither celibacy nor theology as such, but rather the culture of dominance and, above all, impunity that church/mosque/synagogue etc. structures perpetuate and which pedophiles find irresistible.
Good piece as always, Alan. I'm surprised a non-Protestant photo landed on the cover, though. I would have expected Jepson's photo to accompany on the front page.
@Kathy
Agreed. You just can't beat Bishop Zollitsch's hat, although I do like Jepsen's collar...

This is a very big story, by the way, coming in the wake of the spectacular resignations of Bishops Käßmann and Mixa, plus German president Horst Köhler. This country is rapidly becoming a "resignocracy."
There are pedophiles everywhere. They are in every family, every neighborhood and every country. Why these idiots are allowed out in society is beyond me. Obviously the punishment does not fit the crime.
This is starting to sound like chess.
" . . . you might have gained the impression that the Catholic Church is in essence a giant pedophile ring. But this perception is unfair – not because it is untrue, but because it insinuates that Catholics have a monopoly on systemic child abuse."

So you're saying that the Catholic church is a giant pedophile ring, but not the only giant pedophile ring?

Two things: First, I don't think there is any evidence that the percentage of pedophile priests is greater than the percentage of pedophiles in the general population. If you have evidence to the contrary I would be happy to be corrected.

Second, from everything I've read, by far most incidents of child sex abuse happen in the public schools. For example --
--------------------
Now, on the heels of the Catholic abuse scandal comes another of historic proportions—one that has the potential to be much greater and far-reaching. According to a draft report commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education, in compliance with the 2002 "No Child Left Behind" act signed into law by President Bush, between 6 percent and 10 percent of public school children across the country have been sexually abused or harassed by school employees and teachers.

Charol Shakeshaft, the Hofstra University scholar who prepared the report, said the number of abuse cases—which range from unwanted sexual comments to rape—could be much higher.

"So we think the Catholic Church has a problem?" she told industry newspaper Education Week in a March 10 interview.

To support her contention, Shakeshaft compared the priest abuse data with data collected in a national survey for the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation in 2000. Extrapolating data from the latter, she estimated roughly 290,000 students experienced some sort of physical sexual abuse by a school employee from a single decade—1991-2000. That compares with about five decades of cases of abusive priests.

Such figures led her to contend "the physical sexual abuse of students in schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests."
----------------------
http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2004/4/5/01552.shtml
MAWB, punishment is not and never will be rehabilitation. When people come to understand that, we can make some progress reforming our justice system.
And they are allowed back into society because they have done their time according to our laws and civil liberties.
I hope the indication that pedophilia is present in other sectors of human dealings with children is not meant to remove any of the contempt directed at religious organizations for their participation in this nasty activity. Religious organizations, whatever their fantasies may be in assuming to have connection to a superior morality, nevertheless bear the burden of this (and other) clear indications of fostering obvious immorality. It strikes at the heart of their moral assumptions.
I'm not an expert on pedophilia but, from articles and essays I've read, most written by psychologists and psychiatrists, it is incurable. The recidivism rate would seem to support this.

Therefore, if we can't rehabilitate the pedophile, what do we do with him (or, less likely, her)?
If I was a pedophile I would definitely want to become a Priest. There's a huge variety of kids to choose from and if you get caught you get instant forgiveness. You can't blame the pedophiles, they don't set up the system, they're just doing what everyone else does and taking advantage of what the system offers them.

It's always baffled me that the non-pedophiles tolerate it so well but they do seem to be fine with it. Such a shame.
There is the implication in these later comments that pedophilia with the consent of the child is acceptable behavior. This is a very uneasy area to explore without specific knowledge and perhaps without taking into account individual circumstances. Fiddling with kids is a red hot issue to the point when mere expressions of affection and touching acceptable in previous eras with no sex implied or intended is no longer generally possible and is a great loss in child adult relationships. Pedophilia and reactions to it have poisoned normal affectionate adult-child relationships and that is a major loss.
Since I assume a priori that all Christian clerics are self-deluded, if not engaged in outright lies to themselves and others (which would be even more unforgiveable), I proceed with caution around even the best of them like a sheep in proximity to wolves. Why is everyone shocked by this revealing bit of obsessive dishonesty among the self-professed professional shepherd class of the world?
Funny how the clergy, regardless of denomination, always seem to love their fellow priests more than the children who are placed in their care. What would Jesus say, I wonder?

Actually, funny is not the right word. But their ability to forgive sins seems very selective.
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Burgess Dillard (aka Cameleon), I think it's true that humans are sexual creatures much earlier than most people admit. It may also be true that the taboo regarding child-adult sexual relations may cause some of the harm. But it does cause terrible harm, EVEN when it might be seemingly initiated by the child. I say "seemingly" because most children want personal attention from adults. If children don't get much attention, they are likely to do some very extreme things to get it (like flirting, but there are many other examples) and predators actively shape children's behavior to encompass sexual relations based on that vulnerability.

Abused children later grow up to feel responsible for the abuse because they did seek the attention and crossed all kinds of boundaries to get it. Many come to enjoy it from time to time, which a huge source of guilt in later life.

There is NO DOUBT that sexual abuse of children HARMS children and that it is NEVER their fault. Children are not rational creatures, and no amount of flirtation justifies it. I find it despicable and utterly reprehensible that you want to blame children for it. Are you just trolling for a response? You got it.

On another note, I think we need to find better treatments for abusers, but one thing we do that perpetuates the problem is saying it's intractable. That's like giving pedophiles permission to NOT TRY to stop. Self-efficacy is everything in behavior modification.
Just like addiction, pedophilia is treated like a disease that can't ever be cured, and that hinders success.
@Mishima
Point taken, and thanks too for the report. No, I don't think Catholics are more susceptible to this than other people. What gets to me, though (as someone who was baptized into it but not consistently raised in it) is that it permits all this all-too human behavior while insisting on calling itself "holy."
Christianity was thoroughly debunked by Thomas Jefferson (Viz. Letters to Peter Carr, "Homage to Reason;" John Adams, "Your prophecy or mine;" Major Cartwright, "What a conspiracy this between Church and State;" and Samuel Kercheval on the identified Roman "Anti-Christ"), hence the whiggish "Annuit Coeptis" of America's Creed establishing the New Secular Order.

What a startling "coincidence" that the same Babylonian "cult of male prostitutes" King Jehosophat ejected from Jerusalem relocated itself to Vatican Hill, and there teamed with Etruscan and Latin assassins and tyrants, yet flourishes as a death cult surrounding a crucified Jew (particularly when crucifixion was the specific and unique punishment under codified Roman law for only one, specific "crime" - twice denying that Caesar was God Almighty) with its anti-American twin fasces on the front wall of, and controlling "bi-partisan" plurality within, the U.S. House, and Senate; greatest ownership of property in the U.S. other than the U.S.Gov't; and, whose Supreme Court majority illegally appointed the 9/11-committing Closet-Queen-in-Chief whose father has yet to be brought to justice for assassinating President Kennedy to restore the Vatican's correspondent bankers to its illegal control of our money (EO11,110) and to send us to die in the papal fiefdom of Vietnam (NSAM263), and whose grandfather was money-conduit from its American collection plates to the author of "I Paid Hitler," papal baron, Fritz "The Rockefeller of Germany" Thyssen.

America's Founder, Th. Jefferson made a distinction between "the Bible," and "the New Testament." To him it was transparently obvious that "Jesus" never existed.

Clearly "the Infinite Power which rules the destinies of the universe" is current Cosmology's "Dread Singularity," and one single infinite entity is the Creator. Derivatives of the Roman Anti-Christ's pedophile, homosexual priesthood shall never be free of the anti-G-d sociopolitical perversion which engendered their false religion - hence the appeal to perverse and corrupt affiliation, Protestant and papist.

Righteousness is the Path. Only in Truth and Justice does G-d manifest, beyond the infinite miracles and beauty available to each and all.
As someone who has spent the majority of my fledgling social work career working alongside sexual abusers and researching the "causes" of such a condition, I find some of the comments below disturbing.

The word "pedophilia" specifically means an adult who has a sexual fetish for children. It does not apply to young adults, as their developing brains and social skills do not allow them to be in an appropriate stage for diagnosis. Pedophilia does not always mean that an individual has had physical access to a child, since a fetish can be satisfied by pictures and mental imagery as well. Too often people lump all sexual offenders under the word "pedophile" but I think it's important to consider that that association is the same as asking someone for a Kleenex. You really want a tissue, but you just happened to call it a Kleenex because that's the most popular buzz word...

I read a few other comments that expressed reservations that sexual abusers and pedophiles have the ability to be rehabilitated. This is a grossly inaccurate statement, and one that if it continues to be perpetuated, will only increase the numbers of sexual offenders in society. Individuals with such a condition should always be given opportunities for rehabilitation. In my experience, sexual abusers are often victims of a circle of abuse that has simply not been intervened upon. It takes only one willing and trained individual to step in and stop the cycle to not only give better lives to children who didn't have to become victims, but sexual abusers that could move on to be healthy, productive citizens.

I believe the real shame in this story is that there are individuals who have the power to stop this cycle within religious groups, who are choosing not to do so. Sexual abuse is never okay, and it should be stopped. Powerful religious figures should recognize this and act upon any suspected cases immediately.

As citizens however-it is our job to never forget that mental illness and trauma are conditions capable of being treated and that help should go to the victim, but to the perpetrator as well.