German Catholic bishops sack head of independent sex abuse study
Germany’s Roman Catholic bishops sacked a criminologist studying sexual abuse of minors by their priests on Wednesday, prompting him to accuse them of trying to censor what was to be a major report on the scandals.
The independent study, examining church files sometimes dating back to 1945, was meant to shed light on undiscovered cases of abuse after about 600 people filed claims against molesting priests in 2010 following a wave of revelations there.
The German scandals were part of a series of abuse scandals that also shook the Catholic Church in Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands and forced Pope Benedict to issue a public apology.
Bishop Stephan Ackermann, spokesman on abuse issues for the German Bishops Conference, said the hierarchy had lost confidence in the researcher, criminologist Christian Pfeiffer, and would look for another specialist to take up the study.
“We regret that this project … cannot be continued and we will have to find a new partner,” Ackermann said in a statement that blamed Pfeiffer’s “communications behaviour with church officials” for the breakdown.
Pfeiffer told German Radio the bishops wanted to change previously agreed guidelines for the project to include a final veto over publishing its results, which he could not accept.
“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.