Google News - Associated Press March 3, 2010
German Catholic schools at center of abuse scandal
By KIRSTEN GRIESHABER (AP)
BERLIN — In the home country of Pope Benedict XVI, new revelations of child abuse by Roman Catholic priests at German high schools are surfacing almost daily.
The Catholic church in Germany — where around 30 percent of people consider themselves Catholic — has apologized for the incidents, but already there are calls for the government to take action because most of the cases date back to the 1970s and 1980s, beyond the reach of statutes and prosecution.
The first accusers came forward a month ago in Berlin. Since then, the list of schools and victims who say they were scarred and haunted by alleged abuses has grown.
First it was seven alumni of the prestigious Canisius Kolleg prep school in Berlin. Then it was Aloisius Kolleg in Bonn and then St. Blasien, another Jesuit-run boarding school in the Black Forest as well as other Catholic schools in Hamburg, Goettingen and Hildesheim.
Just days ago, the renowned boarding schools Ettal Monastery and St. Ottilien in Bavaria made headlines when allegations about child molestation by Benedictine priests there surfaced. The total number of alleged victims has reached at least 150.
Ursula Raue, an attorney appointed by the Jesuit religious order to handle the charges, told The Associated Press she has been overwhelmed by the number of cases that flood her inbox and answering machine daily.
"This whole case has taken on a dimension of unbelievable proportions," she said.
Raue said she "heard from mothers, sisters and brothers, whose children or siblings took their own lives or cannot function in daily life because of deep psychological scars."
The majority of the victims are male, because most of the schools involved admitted only boys aged 10 to 19 at the time the abuse took place. Many victims have never talked to their wives or friends about the incidents because "they still feel ashamed when the memories of humiliation and powerlessness come back and when they realize that none of those old wounds have healed," Raue said.
Miguel Abrantes, now 37 and an actor in Duesseldorf, is one of the few victims able and willing to speak out about the abuse and humiliation he suffered as an 11-year-old boy at Aloisius Kolleg.
He said every morning, the boys had to undress and Father Ludger Stueper sprayed them with cold water from the hose, front and back. He said the boys also had to lie down on Stueper's couch where the priest would take their temperature — rectally for seven minutes.
And then there were the photos.
"One time Stueper took pictures of a friend and me while we were in the shower. He also made us go outside and we had to pose naked for him, lean against stones and trees in the park, the foam from the shampoo still in our hair," Abrantes said.
While the focus of the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic church centered on the United States for several years, abuse scandals have in recent years erupted in other countries as well, including Ireland, the Philippines, Poland, Mexico, Italy, Canada and elsewhere.
Neither the pope nor the Vatican has made any specific remarks about the abuse scandal in Germany, a Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, said, but he added that Benedict's previous statements on other such scandals — including most recently about Ireland — are certainly valid for Germany.
A Vatican statement last month, after a crisis meeting with Irish bishops, said Benedict called the sexual abuse of children "not only a heinous crime, but also a grave sin which offends God and wounds the dignity of the human person created in his image."
So far, the victims have identified 12 Jesuit priests by name and, in some cases, accused women, Raue said, adding that she had not yet found out if all of the accused were still alive.
In the U.S. and elsewhere, some members of Catholic women's religious orders have been accused of molesting children, however claims against women have been rare.
Among the accused is Stueper, the former director of the Aloisius Kolleg, whom several alumni have charged had them pose against their will for nude photos or forced them to perform oral sex.
The Revs. Peter Riedel and Wolfgang Stab, who both taught at Canisius Kolleg in the 1970s and 80s, have been accused of serial sexual abuse there and at other Catholic youth institutions in Germany, Mexico, Chile and Spain, where they were transferred later in their lives, according to a report Raue published last month.
Only in two cases have prosecutors opened investigations: The allegations at Aloisius Kolleg and claims against a member of the Benedictine-run boarding school in Ettal.
Bonn prosecutors are investigating the case of a student who is currently still enrolled at Aloisius Kolleg and was allegedly abused by Stueper in 2005. Stueper, 82, is living at a nursing home and is reportedly suffering from dementia.
Several German lawmakers, including Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, have called for an extension of the statute of limitations, and the German Bishops Conference recently issued a statement apologizing for the incidents. They have appointed a special commissioner for all questions regarding sexual abuse of children within the church, but have not announced any further consequences.
Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, the head of the German Bishops Conference, has reacted defensively to growing criticism of the Catholic church.
"Sexual abuse of children is not a specific problem of the Catholic church. It has neither to do with celibacy, nor with homosexuality nor with Catholic sexual doctrine," Zollitsch told weekly Welt am Sonntag earlier this week.
For the victims, dialogue with the schools and reform within the Catholic Church are among the most important demands. So far, only few calls for compensation payments were made.
"I do want to forgive, but every time I try to get in touch with officials from my old school or the Jesuits in order to establish some kind of communication, I just get turned away," said Georg K., who asked that his last name does not get mentioned publicly to protect his privacy.
Georg K., who works in advertising, said that Stueper forced him to have oral sex during the time he was a student from sixth to 10th grades at Aloisius Kolleg in the 1980s. He did not want to elaborate further on the abuse, indicating the memories were too painful.
"I have to live with this humiliation every day of my life," the 40-year-old told AP by telephone from Munich. "It is disappointing and it pains me, that I run against a wall of silence every time I want to talk to them."
Associated Press Writer Victor Simpson in Rome and AP Religion Writer Rachel Zoll in New York contributed to this report.
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