JANUARY 18, 2013 10:25AM

Catholic abuse hotline opens up Pandora's box

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 Stephan Ackermann
"A spirituality of crime":
Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier

(Source: wiki)



REGULAR READERS OF MY blog know that I am an outspoken critic of the German Catholic Church’s handling of its ongoing pedophile abuse scandal. As horrific as the crime is, the coverup is much worse since it continues to enable the crime in the first place. But I believe one should give credit where credit is due. Alongside its many half-measures, the Church opened up a temporary abuse hotline in March of 2010 in order to speed up the reporting process. Now, as the program draws to an end, it has proven itself not only to be an essential tool in sorting out many previously unreported cases, it has also represented a genuine Pandora’s box when it comes to understanding pedophile abuse – not only within the Catholic Church, but within modern society as a whole. In fact, it may have taught us more about the issue than many of us really wanted to know.


Some sixty percent of callers claimed to have been victims of sexual abuse themselves, particularly during the period between 1950 and 1980. According to Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier, the German Bishop Conference’s special officer on abuse, an analysis of 8,500 phone calls and other messages showed that Catholic abuse was anything but a spontaneous occurrence. Instead, one of the project’s “staggering outcomes” was that priests deliberately planned their assaults on children and included them in their routine. The priests and other Church employees frequently used “the psychological effect of rituals” such as prayers and confessions in order to soften the kids up for sex. As Ackermann puts it, “I was particularly shocked that the perpetrators consistently informed the minors that their intentions were an expression of their loving bond with God.” Sometimes they would tell the children that “You are now a chosen bride of Christ.” Others promised to include the kids in their prayers during mass. Ackermann speaks of a “spirituality of crime.” Up to ninety percent of the victims were male.


 Canisius Kolleg
The Canisius Kolleg, Berlin's infamous
"elite" Jesuit high school
(Source: wiki)


Fifty-three percent of pedophile acts occurred in rectories, usually in connection with First Communion and youth groups. Boarding schools took up twenty-eight percent of abuse cases, and ten percent of rapes occurred in youth camps. While the 1950s and 1960s appear to have been a living hell, when priests and nuns in schools and other institutions raped children with impunity, these practices continued on into the 1990s and are apparently still occurring today.


So much for the Catholic Church. But the callers revealed pedophile abuse in other areas of life as well. In 1,207 reported cases of abuse, 407 occurred outside the Church. These included fifty in the healthcare industry and more than 300 within families. And while priests largely restrict themselves to inappropriate touching, fellatio, mutual masturbation, and sex talk (cf. the John Jay Study), when it comes to actual penetration, the cases at home surpass those occurring in the Church by around seventy percent. This actually confirms the clergy's frequent assertion that, press reports aside, kids are safer from classic rape inside the Church than outside. Well, thank heaven for small blessings.


The often highly emotional phone calls and emails revealed that victims have suffered decades of depression, sexual problems, sensory disturbances, suicidal thoughts, and substance abuse.


While the hotline study is not representative, it nevertheless shines light into the dark reaches of not only the Catholic Church, but also into state-run facilities and that allegedly so sacrosanct of institutions, the family.


On German TV last night, Bishop Hans-Jochen Jaschke of Hamburg told the country that “I am ashamed for these victims, who trusted people in the Church and who have been so bitterly disappointed.”


You and me both, brother. And I’m not even Catholic.




Spiegel Online

Die Welt

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung



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Thanks, Toritto. When I was a kid, I frequently heard stories about physically and verbally abusive priests and nuns in parochial schools, but sex was taboo. I would encourage anyone who has any awareness of the abusive culture back then to let us know about it here.
you do good work. i wish the result would be a sane atheism, but the catholics have survived borgia popes, torture, support of two-bit central american dictators, accommodation with hitler, and repeated revelations of mass child abuse- what's a little more?

but the cause is just, continue.
Thanks, Al. I agree that the Church will remain with us for a long time to come.
Reminds me of the West Virginia definition of a virgin: an ugly 12 year old who can run faster than her father. My experience as a child and adolescent psychiatrist is that most pedophilia originates in the family. I agree that there is something particularly disgusting about the way the Catholic Church has institutionalized it.
Yeow. Who would have thought that being an altar boy in the 20th century would have so much in common with being a cabin boy in the 18th.
Sad but true, Abrawang...
[r] alan, more breathtaking revelations from you.

Dear God! Alice Miller as we have discussed writes about poisonous pedagogy she calls it and focuses on pre WWII Germany a lot. The authoritarianism especially that can paralyze young and vulnerable children into abandoning their own self-protective assertion of will, introvert the blame back on themselves, from their school, church and/or family upbringing and conditioning. The perfectionism and exceptionalism and projecting one's character defects onto others. Denial. She claims this readied the German nation for the authoritarianism of Hitler. (Hitler was embraced by the intelligentsia especially which is quite telling, too. It is not about smarts but about spiritual psychological entrapment). Miller's simple trauma theory, that childhood trauma causes severe emotional trouble in later life explains much. The planning and manipulative lying is disgusting. Power does corrupt.

I have met some arrogant psychological counselors more often than I have met priests but the style is the same. Hubris. A power position can bring out evil in some individuals very easily. A grandiosity meets opportunity for exploitation.

Your statistics are fascinating and heartbreaking and infuriating.

Many of these victims knew undoubtedly that their supposed protectors were so enthralled with the authoritarianism and mystique of the Catholic Church that they probably wouldn't be believed or worse be victimized further for causing trouble. Living in the secrecy or living in the horror of trying to break the secrecy and being vilified for it.

Thanks for another profound read.

best, libby