"A spirituality of crime":
Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier
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.
The Canisius Kolleg, Berlin's infamous
"elite" Jesuit high school
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.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung