Salacious Report out of Germany Demonstrates Need for Secular Action
A harrowing picture of systemic sexual abuse within the Catholic Church in Germany has emerged thanks to local reporting and the release of court documents. This news is at once shocking and all-too-expected, and we hope these continued revelations of the culture of sexual violence in the Church will drive parents, parishioners, and lawmakers to action.
The allegations as reported are salacious, and it seems outrageous that nuns could have “dragged” victims to abusers and acted as pimps. But to those who have been hurt by clergy or women religious, and to those who advocate for them, the story is sadly not surprising. To us, there is no doubt that Karl Haucke was victimized - not just by the priest who sexually abused him and by the nuns who betrayed him, but by the institutional Church itself and the trusted leaders who failed to protect him. We applaud him for his bravery in coming forward and believe that his public witness will encourage others who were hurt within the German Catholic Church to come forward.
When stories like this one break, the common refrain from that Church is that “this is all in the past, we’ve cleaned up now, nothing to see here.” In reality, news reports show that abuse continues to be perpetrated in the Catholic Church. Just this year in the US at least 25 Catholic clergy or staffers have been arrested on charges related to sexual abuse. We suspect this trend would hold true around the world.
The reality is not what is said by Church officials, but what has been reported by independent sources worldwide. In the past five years, dominoes have been falling. Australia published a ground-breaking Royal Commission study that showed 7% of Australian clergy abused children. In the US, Pennsylvania's Attorney General sponsored a watershed study that found that more than 300 priests abused more than 1000 children and were aided in escaping justice by their superiors. In Germany, Catholic officials admitted that they never produced or destroyed records, obfuscating the truth into the true scope of crimes in that country. Again, we suspect all of this is true worldwide.
What is needed to protect current children from abuse and prevent future crimes is the involvement of secular law enforcement. Every democracy in the world needs to undertake an investigation into what has gone on within Catholic institutions, one that includes full access to records and the ability to compel testimony from the Church’s highest leaders. What happened in Germany has happened in Ireland, England, and countless other countries. It is past time to shift the burden of the cost of supporting victims from taxpayers and on to the Catholic Church. Only then do we believe that the Pope will finally undertake real reforms that resolve this scandal once and for all.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)