The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
Letter to Consul General Onno Hückmann
April 27, 2010
Consul General Onno Hückmann
Dear Consul General Onno Hückmann,
No institution can investigate or police itself. This is particularly true of a rigid, ancient, secretive, all-male monarchy. And no institution with a horrific track record of concealing child sex crimes should be allowed to investigate or police itself.
That's why we're calling on your government to launch a thorough independent probe into German Catholic dioceses. This is what the Irish government has done. The results of those investigations are impressive. Dangerous predators have been exposed and removed. Corrupt officials have been exposed. A few have resigned. Millions have been educated and thousands have been protected because long-held secrets have been publicly disclosed and egregious but effective cover ups have been uncovered. One could argue that now kids are safer in Ireland than perhaps any other nation in Europe, because at least some of the truth about this horrific crisis has seen the light of day. Parents, parishioners, police and prosecutors are at least more knowledgeable and vigilant now because the Irish government took seriously its duty to protect its most vulnerable citizens.
A month ago, we conveyed our concerns to your Minister of Justice in a hand delivered in Berlin. (Please see attached) We're disappointed we have not heard a response. Given other troubling disclosures about church cover ups in the last month, our concerns, frankly, are greater than ever and the need for a real investigation is likewise greater than ever.
Look no further than the Munich archdiocese. Last month, Catholic officials - in Germany and in Rome - hastily and vehemently defended Pope Benedict, claiming that a predator priest who was re-assigned during then Cardinal Ratzinger's tenure as the head of the Munich Archdiocese was done without his knowledge. Then, a memo surfaced about the re-assignment. One of those copied on it was Ratzinger. Then, minutes of an archdiocesan meeting about the re-assignment surfaced. Ratzinger chaired that meeting.
Despite this evidence, a lower-level German church official claimed "full responsibility" for the re-assignment. Late last week, however, Der Speigel reported that he had been "pressured" to "take the fall" for Pope Benedict. German citizens deserve to know who's telling the truth in this sordid matter.
If even now, Catholic officials can't manage to tell the truth about clergy sex cases, that's a clear indication that some independent entity should delve into these devastating crimes and stunning cover ups.
We're aware of, and deeply disappointed in, the "roundtable" your government has convened about child sexual abuse. That's not the answer. Catholic officials, in Germany and across the globe, have hidden child sex crimes for decades. Why on earth would anyone think that these same officials
would suddenly do a complete turn-around, and immediately and voluntarily disclose their secrets just because of a few unflattering headlines?
We implore your government officials to show real courage and take real action to protect the vulnerable, heal the wounded and disgorge the secrets in this on-going crisis that affects literally thousands and thousands of your citizens.
Thank you for your consideration!
March 24, 2010
Bundesjustizministerin Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger
Dear Minister Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger,
Earlier this week, the German Catholic bishop Zollitsch was forced to admit (years too late in many respects) "I should have been more forceful in searching for witnesses and victims." We humbly submit that you and your colleagues in the German government officials should work hard to make sure that you do not end up, years from now, expressing the same regret.
So we humbly implore you to launch a thorough, independent probe into clergy sex crimes and cover ups in each of Germany's Catholic dioceses.
In 22 years of dealing with clergy sex crimes and cover ups, we've learned some important lessons. Few, however are as significant and helpful as this one: No institution can police itself. Kids are safest when the experienced, independent professionals in law enforcement and other secular agencies oversee those who have endangered and still endanger innocent children. And it's best when trusted secular authorities mount aggressive outreach efforts to prod victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to step forward, share what they know, and shed light on these horrors.
Likewise, no problem is remedied unless it is first fully identified and understood. No doctor operates on a patient, saying "We're not sure where all the cancer is, but we'll take out a bit of it and hope for the best." If vulnerable German children are to be made safe and wounded German adults are to be healed, it will take (as Germany's chancellor indicated last week) fully exposing the truth about those who commit these heinous crimes and those who conceal these heinous crimes.
For these reasons, we believe a government investigation, modeled on the Irish Murphy report, is imperative.
We're opposed to the April 23 "round table," or any similar event, especially with church officials. There are crimes to be uncovered, not "issues" to be "discussed." There are children to be protected, not "views" to be "considered."
We're convinced, and history shows, that bishops - here and elsewhere - have thousands of pages of records about predator priests and corrupt colleagues. Those documents can either be quietly shredded or publicly disgorged. German government officials need to do everything possible to secure and ultimately release those files, so that the wrong-doers can be exposed and so that children can be safeguarded.
We oppose church hotlines, "gag orders," secrecy agreements and other mechanisms to try and keep clergy sex crimes hidden, especially when they're falsely portrayed as being for the benefit of victims (when, in fact, they benefit the wrong-doers - both predatory priests and complicit bishops). We consider internal church policies to be irrelevant at best and deceptions at worst.
They're like having speed limits with no police. Such policies are rarely or sporadically followed, because of the church's unique structure. It's a monarchy, with no system of checks and balances, no outside oversight, no accountability. Each bishop is basically the lord of his own kingdom, answerable to no one. In our experience, under pressure and in print, bishops promise their flock the sun, moon and stars. But behind closed doors when the media spotlight fades, they continue to act recklessly, deceitfully, and callously, protecting themselves and their reputations, rather than protecting the vulnerable and healing the wounded.
We support the reform of archaic, arbitrary, predator-friendly laws like statutes of limitations, which only serve to protect the guilty. However, it's crucial that such reform enables victims who are already in pain to expose their predators, not just victims who are hurt in the future. We are firm advocates for temporarily suspending the civil statutes of limitation.
(We acknowledge that some predators are dead, some evidence is lost, and some memories have faded. But in the US, there's a saying: "Where there's a will, there's a way." And we've seen, time and time again, that when law enforcement genuinely commits itself to pursuing even older crimes and cover ups, justice can happen.)
We know each nation's laws and legal systems differ. We don't presume to know the precise ways in which your government or agency can best address this crisis. But broadly speaking, we are convinced that the devastation to young lives caused by past approaches demands a more active and assertive and preventive role by secular authorities now.
Please don't stop with the naming of an ombudsman. There's no substitute for the power and skills of professional law enforcement officials, who have the training, resources and experience to investigate and disclose wrong-doing. Typically, ombudsmen respond to victims who come forward. But since kids are at risk and laws have been broken, this approach alone is insufficient. Aggressive efforts must be made to determine who the wrongdoers are, so that kids will be protected, the truth will be revealed and future crimes will be deterred.
Thank you for your consideration!
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests