At the conclusion of their plenary assembly, the Bishops’ Conference of Germany issued a statement regarding the “cases of sexual abuse by clergy members during the 1970s and 80s.” They noted that “priestly celibacy, as experts have confirmed, is not the cause of these acts of sexual abuse.”
In a statement published by L’Osservatore Romano the bishops explained, “A life of celibacy can only be assumed by someone who possesses the essential emotional maturity.” The prelates went on to note the necessity that future priests receive life-lasting, “attentive and rigorous” formation.
During their assembly, the bishops also decided to develop new strategies for confronting the crisis of vocations, because, they explained, the problem of sexual abuse may have had its origin in “the quality of seminarians,” who then went on to become priests.
“We German bishops accept our responsibility and condemn the abuse committed by the priests, religious and lay people of our dioceses,” they wrote. “Mortified and shocked, we ask all the victims of these terrible acts for their forgiveness. Our desire is for there to be sincere clarity, without false expectations, even if the acts took place many years ago.”
“The victims have a right to this.”
The bishops also reported that Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier, Germany was named director of the committee responsible for handling cases of sexual abuse by clergy members.
Later this month, the president of the Bishops’ Conference of Germany, Archbishop Robert Zoellitsch, will address the issue directly with Pope Benedict XVI. Then in August, the German bishops will revise and update the norms issued in 2002 on sexual abuse by the clergy, putting a special emphasis on preventative measures.