Paedophile case roils German Catholics
25 September 2007, Berlin (dpa) - German Catholic bishops gathered Monday for a meeting closed to the public where they were expected to discuss a paedophilia scandal in one diocese.
25 September 2007
Berlin (dpa) - German Catholic bishops gathered Monday for a meeting closed to the public where they were expected to discuss a paedophilia scandal in one diocese.
A 39-year-old parish priest was arrested last month on child-sex charges in the parish of Riekofen. Critics say the priest should never have been assigned to parish duty after a paedophilia conviction in 2000.
Germany's church has so far largely avoided the paedophilia scandals which forced the Catholic Church in the United States to pay millions of dollars in damages in the 1990s and disgraced Ireland's Catholic Church last year.
But several bishops are worried that the crisis which will not go away in Regensburg diocese, one of the 27 divisions of the church in Germany, is developing into a public-relations disaster for the church nationally.
Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Mueller, 59, faces questions from other bishops over his public refusal to admit that he mismanaged the Riekofen case.
Cardinal Karl Lehmann, chairman of the Conference of German Bishops, said the national body could not do more than establish guidelines and ultimate responsibility was with the dioceses themselves.
Lehmann said the issue was not on the meeting agenda, but analysts said it was sure to come up.
Paedophilia scandals have dealt a heavy blow to the Catholic church in several nations and prompted questions about the lifestyle of priests, who make a vow of sexual abstinence and do not marry.
In 2002, the German bishops acted to head off just such a crisis, with the conference of bishops issuing guidelines on paedophilia. The needs of the victims were to have priority over the needs of the accused priest.
Those rules say former paedophiles must not be employed in posts where they may have contact with children.
Mueller has denied breaching the guideline, saying he had a Christian duty to forgive and had been convinced that the paedophile priest had reformed his ways.
Josef Algermissen, bishop of Fulda, the central city where the Monday meeting was taking place, rejected that.
"The priest should have been given a second chance in a job that was under supervision and away from children," he said in a radio interview.
Algermissen said public opinion wanted the issue brought up at the meeting, but he would wait to hear Mueller's side of the story before making up his own mind.
"The worst thing that can happen in a diocese is a priest abusing his trust," he said.
On Sunday, a replacement parish priest was installed in the parish of Riekofen and not a word was said during the religious service about the disgraced predecessor.
Bishop Mueller called off his attendance at the last minute because of the "media hype."
The mother of two boys molested by the priest in 1999 charged that diocesan staff had failed to help the victims, adding: "It's a scandal that this bishop won't admit to any fault. They don't care about the children."
A dissident Catholic group, Wir Sind Kirche (We Are Church), picketed the bishops' gathering in Fulda on Monday, accusing the Regensburg bishop of sweeping the case under the carpet.
Mueller, who has established a reputation as a hardliner since taking over the diocese five years ago, denied responsibility to reporters Monday, saying he had relied on positive psychological reports about the priest.
Subject: German news