After a considerable delay, the study on the cases of abuse in the German regional churches, which was expected with “fear and excitement”, has now been published. The numbers are so high that even the previous leak of an interim result could have had the potential for resignations.
Inhalt / Content
Abuse study is tough
The churches in Germany that were once Protestant and still call themselves Evangelical seem to be emulating their parent organization, the Roman Catholic Church, in all disciplines. In addition to the gradual but constantly expanding adoption of the non-evangelical teachings of the Catholic catechism, those responsible also seem to want to be in no way inferior to their daughter, who calls herself Protestant, when it comes to attacks on those under her protection.
The “excitedly” anticipated abuse study by the “ForuM” investigative commission set up for this purpose published its first results yesterday (Source). The numbers speak for themselves. Not only in terms of “quantity” but also in “quality” are the regional churches increasingly similar to the head of their family with headquarters in Rome.
A study for its own sake?
You have to really dig through this Forum study, which has been almost highly celebrated and completely “gendered” in advance, until you eventually come across meaningful absolute numbers in the 864-page work. It is all the more astonishing that some media “knew” so much about it shortly after publication. From page 610 of this study in tome format you will find summarized figures.
The numbers on the accused
Accordingly, a total of 1,386 suspects were identified in the investigation. Of these perpetrators, 1,182 were male (85.3%) and 180 were female (13.0%). 24 defendants (1.7%) were of unknown gender. More than half (805, 55.6%) of the accused were employees of a regional church and 615 (44.4%) were employees of the Diakonische Werken. It is noteworthy that the majority of the accused from a regional church (73.7%) were identified from “other sources”. The “other sources” also include the internal processing of the regional churches. However, it is exactly the opposite with the Diakonische Werken. Only a proportion of 2.1 percent of the accused were identified from “other sources” and 97.9 percent from reports received by the Independent Commission.
Of the total of 1,386 accused, 387 (27.9%) were parish priests, 696 (50.2%) professional employees, 92 (5.8%) volunteers and 209 (15.1%) other groups.
The numbers on abuse victims
The study (from page 612) numbers a total of 1,582 identified abuse victims. Of these, 875 were male (55.3%) and 608 female (38.4%). 99 (6.3%) affected people were classified as “unknown gender”. 42.1 percent of the victims of abuse were recorded from “other sources” and 57.9 percent from receipts received by the commission.
According to the study, 54.1 percent of victims and 45.9 percent were victims of sexual violence by employees of a regional church and 45.9 percent by employees of a diaconal organization.
As with the perpetrators, the willingness of the regional churches to disclose the cases of abuse registered internally was not fully developed. At least 28.9 percent of the incidents by employees of regional churches were identified based on the reports received by the investigative commission. The larger share of 71.1 percent comes from “other sources”. At the Diakonische Werken, the share from “other sources” was only 7.9 percent, while the reports received by the commission accounted for 92.1 percent.
Of all the victims of abuse within the Protestant Church, 778 victims were younger than 14 years old, 512 were between 14 and 17 years old and 50 were at least 18 years old.
Of the 20 regional churches in Germany, there are different levels of knowledge about cases of abuse that were reported to the investigative commission. According to the study, 8 regional churches stated that corresponding criminal proceedings could be found in their files. In 10 regional churches there were no proceedings at all recorded in the files and in 2 regional churches they appeared to be ignorant as to whether proceedings even existed.
A similar picture emerges from the “other sources”, which also include the internal information from the regional churches themselves. 9 regional churches had recorded corresponding criminal proceedings. In 3 regional churches, however, no proceedings were carried out against the accused. 8 regional churches withheld information.
Churches are as colorfully organized as their ideology
The study describes cooperation with the regional churches as a major challenge (page 722). In addition to delays, there was also a refusal to implement the plan and the resulting major adjustments to the originally planned course of action. Due to the ecclesiastical structure of federalism, the regional churches, which operate independently of one another, sometimes handled the process extremely differently. A delay of one year resulted from waiting until all regional churches communicated their understanding of how to deal with sexual violence and also their knowledge of the extent of this violence.
Even the requirements of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), such as the separation of personnel files and material files, were handled very differently. Numerous files that also documented sexual violence were filed without being assigned a keyword and could therefore only be found after a long delay. Such files on internally discovered abuse were “kept permanently and not confiscated.” 12 regional churches cannot therefore rule out that such documents have not been destroyed long ago.
Like the mother, so does the daughter
The 1,582 victims of abuse in the Protestant regional churches that are now at least recently known are compared to 1,839 identified victims of abuse within the Roman Catholic Church (As of February 2023 – Info). The Roman Catholic Church has already paid just over 40 million euros in compensation to the victims. As of January 2023, the Protestant churches paid around 9.6 million euros to the victims for whom their employees were responsible (Source). There is no need for a further comparison because it is not a sports discipline. In any case, one can certainly estimate that the cases identified in the parent and subsidiary organizations are only a small subset of the total. (Thema abuse)
These current figures show the situation in the regional churches. Not exactly inviting for people who are still on the outside and rather expansive for the people who are still part of it. The federal states paid the Catholic and Protestant churches more than 600 million euros per year from tax revenue (Source), in addition to the church taxes collected by the churches from their members. A relic from the Weimar era. A topic that, in addition to dealing with the chronic cases of abuse in these churches, should also be dealt with quickly and conclusively.
Shockwave is not inconvenient
It is certainly to be expected that the already very high wave of resignations from both organizations will increase. While the Church of Rome does not have to fear its existence due to “genetic determination”, there is justifiably a crisis of meaning in the subsidiary organization made up of regional churches. Just as the Roman Catholic Church gradually and rapidly dismantled its legitimacy as a representative of the Gospel since the 4th century, the once Protestant organization succeeded in doing this in a much faster period of time. But this is thanks to her mother’s massive interventions.
The mass exodus and the associated homelessness of people still searching for salvation is not inconvenient here. A replacement religion has already been installed and is eagerly awaiting a lively influx (Info). The only important thing for the creator of this alternative religion, once again the Church of Rome, is the final renunciation of the gospel.