Criminologist claims bishops seek to censor Church abuse report
An independent inquiry into sex abuse in the German Church is on hold after the bishops fired the consultant criminologist.
- Tom Heneghan
- January 10, 2013
Germany's Roman Catholic bishops sacked a criminologist studying sexual abuse of minors by their priests on Wednesday, prompting him to accuse them of trying to censor what was to be a major report on the scandals.
The independent study, examining church files sometimes dating back to 1945, was meant to shed light on undiscovered cases of abuse after about 600 people filed claims against molesting priests in 2010 following a wave of revelations there.
The German scandals were part of a series of abuse scandals that also shook the Catholic Church in Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands and forced Pope Benedict to issue a public apology.
Bishop Stephan Ackermann, spokesman on abuse issues for the German Bishops Conference, said the hierarchy had lost confidence in the researcher, criminologist Christian Pfeiffer, and would look for another specialist to take up the study.
"We regret that this project ... cannot be continued and we will have to find a new partner," Ackermann said in a statement that blamed Pfeiffer's "communications behaviour with church officials" for the breakdown.
Pfeiffer told German Radio the bishops wanted to change previously agreed guidelines for the project to include a final veto over publishing its results, which he could not accept.
"Everything was settled reasonably and then suddenly came ... an attempt to turn the whole contract towards censorship and stronger control by the church," said Pfeiffer, head of the Lower Saxony Criminological Research Institute.
The critical lay Catholic movement We Are Church called the decision "a devastating signal for the credibility of the church leadership" that showed the bishops could not accept an independent inquiry into the scandals.
The mainstream Central Committee of German Catholics expressed regret that the study "cannot be carried out in the agreed way" and said any new study should be up to the standards of independent academic research.
In Germany, some 180,000 Catholics left the church in protest in 2010, a 40 percent jump over the previous year, after revelations about abuse in boarding schools prompted about 600 people to file accusations of abuse against priests.