German Jesuits set example on abuse

"In the name of the order, I acknowledge with shame and guilt our failure", Fr Stefan Dartmann SJ, the German Jesuit provincial. said today. "I ask for forgiveness".

His comments came as the Society of Jesus released a report into abuse at its schools over many decades. The report, which records 205 allegations against priests in Jesuit schools dating back to the 1950s, was commissioned in January after 25 former students at the Jesuit-run Canisius College alleged sexual abuse.


The special investigator, Ursula Raue, said she thinks the number is even higher, as "we cannot expect to have heard everything yet." She said 46 Jesuits and non-clerical staff at the schools have been accused of abuse or of knowing of such crimes without acting. A dozen priests have been accused; six of them are dead.

"There was a widespread mentality in the order, and perhaps still is, that the primary concern was the reputation of the institution and its fellow brothers", said Fr Dartmann, at the left of the picture.

The Jesuits' decision to order an investigation to flush out all the allegations -- rather than waiting for the painful drip-drip of abuse victims stepping forward one by one -- is a wise one, and sets an example for other religious orders worldwide.

Coincidentally, Pope Benedict XVI said this morning that the Church "does not conceal the wounds inflicted on the ecclesiastical community by the weakness and sins of some of its members".

He is expected to issue his own mea culpa -- and possibly new guidelines on abuse applicable to all dioceses worldwide -- sometime between 9 and 12 June at the meeting in Rome of priests from across the world.










Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Carolyn Disco
8 years ago
This is a refreshing counterpoint to some US Jesuits' reactions as noted by a former Jesuit in NCR yesterday:
''Let me take you into a situation that illustrates the church institution's instinctive reaction to cover-up scandal. It was a workshop in 2000 for new Jesuit superiors. The presenter, a former provincial, was discussing the circumstances when a superior could break the bond of confidentiality between himself and the men he was in charge of. He said something could be shared with the provincial ''If it was a matter of danger for the individual or to others.''
I asked, ''What do you mean by others?'' His response was concise and immediate: ''The Jesuit order.'' (Not, as I expected, ''students, parishioners, those we are counseling, etc.'')
I was stunned by his answer, and the fact that none of the other 40 participants expressed any disagreement with it. That same evening we heard a talk by a newly installed bishop. He had worked in another diocese prior to his current post and said he often appeared in court to defend priests facing charges.
He described how, as he was walking into court, he would recite to himself, ''I'm sorry, Your Honor, but I do not remember.'' Those attending the dinner laughed loudly. One wonders if either of these revelations would have occurred if ''outsiders'' (lay people, the parents and victims of sexual abuse by priests) had been present. I strongly doubt it.''
American Jesuit provinces need to follow the lead of their German brothers, especially regarding survivor Kate B.'s complaint in posts here of non-compliance and obstruction by a US provincial who she cites for violations of her settlement.
Every Jesuit provincial here should actively solicit alumni/ae to report abuse, and respond accordingly. Cheverus Academy in Maine refuses settlements to victims of a lay coach, though they settled with victims of Jesuit priests. Disowning redress of abuse by lay vs clerical staff under their management is unacceptable, as is claiming poverty when other expensive programs go forward.


Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

A woman religious casts her ballot May 25 in Dublin as Ireland holds a referendum on its law on abortion. Voters went to the polls May 25 to decide whether to liberalize the country's abortion laws. (CNS photo/Alex Fraser, Reuters)
The repeal of Ireland's Eighth Amendment, which guarantees the right to life of the unborn, is passing by a 2-1 margin with most of the votes counted.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testifies at a House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Tuesday, May 22, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
The Secretary of Education stirred up controversy when she said it was up to schools to decide if an undocumented student should be reported to authorities.
J.D. Long-GarcíaMay 25, 2018
Thousands gathered in Dublin May 12 to say "Love Both" and "Vote No" to abortion on demand. They were protesting abortion on demand in the forthcoming referendum May 25. (CNS photo/John McElroy)
“Priests and bishops get verbal abuse by being told, ‘How can you speak for women? You don’t know what it’s like!’”
America StaffMay 25, 2018
The coffin containing the body of St. John XXIII is seen during a ceremony in Vittorio Veneto Square after its arrival in Bergamo, Italy, May 24. The body of the late pope left the Vatican on May 24 to be displayed in his home region until June 10. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

BERGAMO, Italy (CNS) — Accompanied by Bishop Francesco Beschi of Bergamo and escorted by both Italian and Vatican police officers, the glass coffin containing the body of St. John XXIII left the Vatican early on May 24 for a 370-mile drive to Bergamo.