In the diocese of Mainz, cases of sexual violence have not been consistently pursued for decades, and in some cases have been concealed and played down - even at the time of Bishop Karl Cardinal Lehmann, who was well respected in the diocese and beyond. This emerges from a study presented on Friday by the independent lawyer Ulrich Weber in Mainz. In a first statement, Bishop Peter Kohlgraf spoke of "terrifying results" and "crimes". "An entire system has failed."
"The deeds and crimes that come to the public with the study are just as much a part of the history of the diocese of Mainz as looking the other way and the inability to listen and believe those affected," said Kohlgraf. It is important to recognize this failure in evaluating the lives of bishops such as Albert Stohr (1945-1961), Hermann Cardinal Volk (1962-1982) and Lehmann (1983-2017), who was also chairman of the German Bishops' Conference from 1987 to 2008. not to be spared. "As important as her merits were in many areas, we heard this morning unequivocally: the protection of perpetrators and the church was more important to you than the distress of those affected, even if there were different phases of contact during Cardinal Lehmann's tenure."
The Regensburg lawyer commissioned by the diocese, Weber, said when the study was presented: "The diocese, as the responsible institution, has in many cases encouraged sexual abuse through inappropriate handling and lack of control." By showing solidarity with the accused and by discrediting victims, parish communities would have made clarification more difficult and made further incidents possible.
25,000 pages of file and archive material
As part of the study, around 25,000 pages of file and archive material were examined and 246 personal, written or telephone interviews were conducted. According to a statistical analysis, 657 victims and 392 suspects were initially identified for the period from 1945 to 2019. It was then examined more closely how the respective facts are presented and how plausible the case appears. Ultimately, 401 victims and 181 suspects remained for further investigation.
"An entire system has failed," said Kohlgraf. "People didn't want to look, families didn't want to believe or react, communities put things into perspective," said the bishop. "Behind it is an exaggerated image of the priest as father and holy man." It's about power relations, about concealment, about relativizing. "We're talking about a crime and not about individual scandals or the failure of individuals," emphasized Kohlgraf. "People have been destroyed, faith and trust." After reading the study carefully, the bishop intends to make another statement at a press conference on March 8th.
According to the study, 96 percent of the accused are male, around two thirds are clergy and the rest are lay people. The spectrum of offenses ranges from a sexually-related violation of boundaries to particularly serious criminal offences. According to the study, 61 percent of abuse cases lasted longer than a year.
72 percent of the victims suffered multiple attacks
Around 60 percent of those affected are male, and 72 percent of the victims had to suffer multiple attacks. According to the study, the victims were between 3 and 62 years old, one focus was on communion age at 10 years, another on "post-pubertal young people" at 14 to 15 years. Half of those affected were victims of a serious or particularly serious crime. Serious and particularly serious crimes were mostly committed up until the early 1990s. Actions were often taken during leisure time or travel, in the private sphere or in the vicarage, and around every fourth report by those affected was made more than 30 years after the incident.
The period under Cardinal Volk (1962-1982) was a focus for such acts. Weber criticized Lehmann for never considering dealing with cases of sexual violence as a top priority. "He never fulfilled his own words for dealing with sexual violence in the Catholic Church in the diocese of Mainz," said Weber.
About two-thirds of the diocese of Mainz is in Hesse and one-third in Rhineland-Palatinate and recently had a good 700,000 church members.