News from the Telegraph:
Maria Jepsen, 65, came under fire for her handling of the case of a pastor accused of abusing young boys and girls in the 1970s and 1980s in her northern German diocese of Hamburg. She reportedly knew for several years about the case but failed to act."My credibility has been called into question," she said at a press conference. "Therefore, I am no longer in a position to continue the duty I promised to God and to my congregation when I was ordained and when I was elected as a bishop." According to German media reports, a 46-year-old woman said she had been the victim of repeated sexual abuse by the pastor between 1979 and 1984, abuse to which the pastor admitted when confronted by his superiors in the church.But the abuse victim said she had revealed the abuse to Jepson as far back as 1999.
The bishop has said she was only told about "unworthy behaviour" by the pastor and only learned about the precise nature of the abuse this year.Without reacting directly to the criticism directed against her, Jepsen on Friday called for the abuse cases, in Ahrensburg and elsewhere, to be cleared up as quickly as possible.In 1992, Jepsen became the first woman to be appointed as a Lutheran bishop and was subsequently elected to a second 10-year term in 2002.
A few observations: Many observers (including me) have suggested that the presence of women (and lay men, and married men and women, and parents in particular) in positions of authority in the Catholic church might have served as a bulwark against the mishandling of sexual abuse cases--specifically, the reassignment of abusive priests to new parishes. The voices of married men and women, or simply lay men or lay women--in the Vatican, in chanceries and in parishes--might have been stronger in arguing for the swift removal of abusive priests. A mother or father (or layman or laywoman) would have been, so the argument goes, more appalled by the crimes of abuse against children. The case of Bishop Jepsen sheds some light on that, and suggests that while the inclusion of lay men and women in positions of authority is essential, it may not be a panacea for sexual abuse. Also, Bishop Jepsen has resigned, which Catholic bishops in similar situations have, for the most part, not done. Third, while the Catholic clerical culture that historically privileged the word of priests over the pleas of parents was one of the main causes of the abuse crisis, sexual abuse is, as this story demonstrates, not simply a "Catholic problem."