Why did the Catholic priests molest children?

Abuse: The Scandals of the Catholic Church

It is a summit that has never taken place in this form: Pope Francis has invited the heads of the bishops' conferences from all over the world to come to terms with sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. "At last!"; "Much too late!" - The reactions to the announced meeting so far are clear. It is also clear: there is a lot to talk about. Recently, for example, the sexual abuse of nuns came into focus. Pope Francis has already admitted that there had been attacks by clergy. But this problem is not Francis' only problem. An overview of the current scandals that are still making headlines today.

United States

Theodore McCarrick no longer holds an ecclesiastical office

In July 2018, Pope Francis had already dismissed Theodore McCarrick from the rank of cardinal. Now the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also found the former star cleric guilty. The guardians of Catholic doctrine, who also deal with crimes against the faith and are responsible for dealing with cases of abuse, accuse the 88-year-old of sexual misconduct with minors and adults in connection with abuse of power. In addition, McCarrick had abused confession by seducing those willing to confess to illicit sexual behavior. Pope Francis released him from the priesthood a few days before the abuse summit in the Vatican - the highest punishment provided for in canon law. This means that the former Archbishop of Washington is now just a normal layman.

The 88-year-old McCarrick, who seduced priesthood candidates into sex between 1970 and 1990 and allegedly molested at least two minors, is just one of hundreds of clergymen who are in the pillory. Experts estimate the number of victims in the USA at more than 100,000 people. In the US state of Pennsylvania alone, more than 300 priests are said to have molested children. They are said to have assaulted thousands of minors in the past 70 years. However, allegations are spreading across the country. McCarrick's successor in the office of Archbishop of Washington, Donald Wuerl, also had to resign in 2018. He is said to have known of McCarrick's actions, but to have taken nothing.


The Chilean Ricardo Ezzati is said to have covered up cases of abuse (archive image)

In Chile, the judiciary has been dealing with the abuse scandal in the country for around a year. Investigations are ongoing in 148 cases against church employees, as reported by the Chilean media, citing the public prosecutor's office. There are said to be more than 250 victims. Bishops are also said to be involved in the scandal. Victims accuse the Archbishop of Santiago de Chile, Ricardo Ezzati, of knowing about such cases, but of having covered them up anyway. The 77-year-old rejects the allegation and even applied for the proceedings to be discontinued. However, the Chilean judiciary rejected this in January. The judge said the investigations have not yet been completed.

The traces of another case from the South American country even led to Germany: Former Archbishop Francisco Cox Huneeus had long been confronted with allegations of sexual abuse of minors. The 85-year-old Chilean last spent his retirement in the priestly community of the Schoenstatt Fathers in Rhineland-Palatinate. In 2004, however, he allegedly assaulted a 17-year-old in Germany, but the behavior described was not sufficient for an indictment. Pope Francis dismissed the clergy last October for sexual abuse. In mid-February, the 85-year-old Huneeus returned to Chile to face investigators.


After the scandals at the Canisius College became known, many other victims came forward in Germany

In Germany, the process of coming to terms with the abuse scandal of the Catholic Church began with the revelations of the Jesuit father Klaus Mertes, who at the end of 2010 made public the decades of abuse at the Canisius College in Berlin. The debate led to further victims registering throughout Germany. One published in September 2018
A study by the German Bishops' Conference now assumes that between 1946 and 2014 at least 1,670 clergy abused more than 3,600 minors.

The Deggendorf district court recently sentenced a former priest to eight and a half years in prison. The court was convinced that the man had seriously sexually abused five boys in more than 100 cases since the mid-1990s. Intentional bodily harm, forgery of documents and possession of youth pornography were also included in the sentence. The 54-year-old was already in prison from 2003 to 2009 - for sexual offenses. As "Father Thomas" he later won trust in the children in the Otzing parish in the Deggendorf district. In 2008 he was dismissed from his priesthood after a church court judgment in Freiburg.


In Ireland, Pope Francis asked for forgiveness in August 2018

In Ireland, too, priests and nuns tortured and abused children and women for decades. Several bishops resigned in largely Catholic Ireland. There were first reports of abuse scandals as early as the 1990s. In 2005, a first report showed more than 100 cases of child abuse. In 2009 a commission appointed by the state published the first comprehensive report - the so-called "Ryan Report". The commission showed that children lived like prisoners and slaves in church institutions. Pope Francis last asked the victims for forgiveness during his visit last year.


Philippe Barbarin has to answer in Lyon (archive image)

In Lyon, France, Archbishop Philippe Barbarin is on trial with six other clergymen. You are said not to have reported sexual assault in the 1970s. The verdict is to be announced at the beginning of March, but the public prosecutor's office spoke out against a conviction of the 68-year-old cardinal in January. "Some of the offenses are statute-barred, and no criminal offense can be established for those that are not," a public prosecutor was quoted as saying. Statute of limitations is a problem in many countries dealing with the abuse scandal of the Catholic Church. Therefore, victims can often only hope for a conviction by an ecclesiastical court.


In Australia, experts estimate the victims of sexual abuse by the Catholic Church at around 60,000 people. Assaults are said to have occurred in church facilities as well as in schools and sports clubs. There is hardly any information or reports from Australia about litigation against clergymen. The reason: There is a message blackout on media available or on view in Australia. This lock is intended to protect the jury from being influenced by media reports. Journalists who report anyway can, in the worst case, be prosecuted.