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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Thursday, April 15, 2010
German bishops will bring in prosecutors early; victims respond
Statement by Barbara Blaine of Chicago, national president of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (312-399-4747)
This promise – that bishops will contact prosecutors quickly in child sex cases – has proven easy to make but hard to keep. Old patterns die hard, and for centuries bishops have ignored or concealed horrific crimes against kids. So it’s prudent to be skeptical of this pledge. Only time will tell if bishops actually honor it.
We urge victims to contact police and prosecutors instead of contacting church officials, no matter how long ago the abuse happened.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 22 years and have more than 9,000 members across the globe. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Contacts: David Clohessy (314 566 9790 cell, 314 645 5915 home), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747), Mark Serrano (703-727-4940), Peter Isely (414-429-7259), Barbara Dorris (314 503 0003)
German bishops will bring in prosecutors early
By VERENA SCHMITT-ROSCHMANN (AP)
BERLIN — German bishops will revise their sexual abuse guidelines to make clear that prosecutors should be brought in early to investigate, the national bishops conference and the Justice Ministry said Thursday.
Germany — Pope Benedict XVI's homeland — has been shaken since January by the scandal over alleged abuse by clerics. On Thursday, the head of the bishops conference, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, met with Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger.
The minister, who has been critical of the Roman Catholic church over recent weeks, told Zollitsch that internal church investigations must not delay or hamper public prosecutors' work, according to a statement issued after their meeting.
The bishops, who already have announced that they will review their guidelines, will change them to make clear "that public prosecutors will be brought in early on in suspected cases," it said.
Existing guidelines dating back to 2002 say accused priests are advised to contact law enforcement on their own in "proven cases" of abuse and that church authorities may contact prosecutors — but they are not required to.
The Justice Ministry and the church will work together in a task force that would determine possible compensation in cases where the statute of limitations has expired, according to Thursday's statement.
Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger irked Zollitsch in February by saying she believed the church was not truly interested in clearing up all sexual abuse cases. She also spoke of a "wall of silence" surrounding the church.
Separately, dissident theologian Hans Kueng, an 82-year-old former colleague and friend of Pope Benedict, urged bishops to push for reforms in the church.
Kueng said the church was now in its deepest crisis since the Protestant Reformation after the recent revelations of sexual abuse had caused an erosion of trust.
In an editorial published Thursday in daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung and other publications, Kueng said bishops should call for a new synod to discuss reforms.
He also accused the pope of not living up "to the great challenges of our time," saying on the fifth anniversary of Benedict's election to the papacy that his traditionalist approach had failed.
Some German dioceses recently have reported steep increases in the number of people leaving the church.
Zollitsch's Freiburg archdiocese said 2,711 left the church in the southwestern region in March — compared with 1,058 a year earlier.
The Wuerzburg diocese in Bavaria said 1,233 left the church there in March — three times the 407 recorded a year earlier. The Munich archdiocese, where Benedict once served as archbishop, said it did not yet have figures for March.
Dozens of people protested at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate on Thursday against abuse in church and other institutions. They brought a model of a nun with a stick and the words "Never Again" emblazoned on her chest.
Associated Press Writer Juergen Baetz in Berlin contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests