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Latest German press reactions to clergy sex abuse

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Munich, Germany

The German press in the past two days has editorialized on church sex abuse following Pope Benedict’s letter to the church in Ireland. The following are excepts as selected by Spiegel Online:

Conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:
The pope "has done little to indicate the way forward for churches in Ireland or Germany, so that they may atone for past wrongs as well as avoid doing harm in the future. Nonetheless, the experiences of churches in North America and England provide a clear blueprint. It includes lessons regarding the standards for the training of priests; the necessity of breaking with the widespread past practice of showing more concern for the perpetrators than for the victims; and establishment of reporting centers that are institutionally independent of the church."

"It is high time that investigation into these issues no longer depends solely on the willingness of victims to come forward or the reporting abilities of the press. Rather than a 'round table' organized by the church itself, the inevitable task of victim compensation would best be done by a commission that brought together scientific expertise, integrity and social authority.

Left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes:
"The central issues of the scandal will remain. Now, as before, and despite all his warm words for the victims, the pope shies away from any debate about sexual morality in the church. And one can only hope that his public silence about the abuse cases in Germany, is not because the pope himself was unhappily involved in such a case when he was the archbishop of Munich."

"To put it delicately, what the pope writes in his pastoral letter also applied back then -- in the gospel according to John (John 8:31-32): "the truth will set you free." Even though, in his letter, he only seeks to apply the principle to others."

The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:
"All of this is not just the result of the pressure of new incidents of clerical abuse. For years Joseph Ratzinger has said that the church should come out, clearly and definitely, against sexual abuse. In the Vatican he has not spared powerful church leaders like the founder of the reactionary Legion of Christ, when accusations of the abuse of minors against him emerged. In the face of this history, the letter to the Irish Catholic church is completely respectable. Never before has a pope made it so clear that such sexual abuse of those entrusted to the care of the church, strikes at the heart of all spiritual belief. Despite all this though, the letter is not going to rescue the church from the crisis it is currently enmeshed in. The letter will not do this because it is addressed to the Irish church only. The letter localizes a problem that actually affects the church throughout the world."

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"And the pope's letter is also problematic when it tries to come to grips with the reasons for the abuse. Benedict XVI suggests that these problems arose because of a moral laxness in the clergy and church that arose after the reforms of the Second Vatican Council (eds note: the 1960s reforms that the church brought about in acknowledge of the changing modern world). The pope says these were mistakenly interpreted as a softening of moral standards. With respect, this is nonsense. Many of the cases from the more distant past, which are currently coming to light, demonstrate this."

"Pope Benedict XVI is merely viewing the abuses from his own belief system. And this is the real and far-reaching weakness of his well-intentioned words. According to this view, the abuse of children and youths is a result of a relativism of values, which has also crept into the church. This is, however, at odds with the real world."

The conservative daily Die Welt writes:
"Had the pope actually said anything about the occurrences in his homeland, the letter's impact on the church worldwide would doubtless have been greater. Even without that, the text is explosive."

"That bishops protected perpetrators, that camouflage and concealment were not exceptions: The head of the Catholic church has never been as clear about any of this before. His call for the church to be subject to the law of the land is an unmistakable instruction to all who abide by the church's rules. But his pastoral letter will not dispel all of the dark clouds hovering over the Catholic church. Nor will it put to rest the debate over celibacy, that so many in the church find so troubling."

"The church has a long road ahead of it, during which it must explain a lot as well as renew itself spiritually. And that counts for Ireland, Germany and the rest of the world. The church must travel this road with courage, so that doubts about men of the cloth and any negative impressions of a religious elite are dispelled. Traveling this path timidly will help as little as blaming the media of a plot against the church."

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