Jan 11, 2013

German Catholic Bishops Scuttle Sex Abuse Study

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

Reuters is reporting that a criminologist retained for an independent study into sex abuse cases from 1945 through 2010 was fired when he clashed with church hierarchy. In a statement, Bishop Stephan Ackermann blamed Christopher Pfeiffer's communication style for their loss of confidence in him and said they would be seeking "a new partner." 

Somehow, the idea of hiring a "partner" to do an "independent" study strikes me as incongruous. Indeed, Pfeiffer has claimed that the arrangement fell apart when church officials attempted to change the original agreement, demanding veto power over the publication of results.

"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.

Tellingly, Bishop Ackermann says more or less the same thing, except that he claims it was Pfeiffer who misinterpreted the agreement, foolishly thinking he could publish his results without their permission.

This decision will probably do little to stem the loss of Church membership in Germany.

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.

Disenchanted German Catholics seem to want an honest, third party assessment, free of Church control.

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 Catholic Church has demonstrated repeatedly that they only want research done if they can control the results. The wages of that control have produced things like the hideous abuse of scholarship that issued from John Jay College in 2011. Discussed here and here, that study misrepresented source material, failed to source contentious assertions, contradicted itself on key points, and ultimately blamed all those dirty hippies in the sixties for causing vulnerable, naive priests to start raping children.

Pfeiffer found early in his research how committed the Church was to hiding its dark past. He learned that files of abusive priests could be destroyed ten years after they were convicted.

Pfeiffer intends to finish his study but will rely on the accounts of abuse survivors.

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