Regarding seminary formation, the German priest noted that this “is key. It is necessary that at this very important stage of their lives they not only acquire knowledge but also skills. They must learn everything necessary to lead a healthy life at all levels and develop their future priestly ministry well.”
Victims and abusers
Regarding the impact of abuse on victims, Zollner commented that “it can have very serious consequences on a person’s faith. Abuse can also be of a spiritual nature and can cause the victim to question his relationship with God and the Church.”
“I believe that victims and survivors should surround themselves with those who listen to them and understand them, people who seek justice and who can put them in contact with professionals from different fields who can help them,” he recommended.
After emphasizing that financial compensation is important for the victims, the Jesuit said that this “is not the main desire. What many, or the vast majority of victims of sexual abuse and other types of abuse want, is for Church representatives to listen to them. They want to talk and express what happened to them, their rage and anxiety.”
As for abusers, the expert said that they should be judged in civil and ecclesiastical jurisdictions and, “as Pope Francis has said in some instances, they should not return to their ministry or have contact with minors.”
“In any case, they must be helped to find a meaningful way of life that does not endanger others. They must be supervised, including psychological evaluation, therapy, and spiritual accompaniment,” he continued.
Zollner also emphasized that “the Church must be willing to do what is necessary to ensure that perpetrators of abuse and those that cover up for them are punished fairly and in a way that prevents further abuse in the future.”
After commenting that the institute he directs offers various programs for training in these issues, the German priest said that some emblematic cases involving Jesuits such as those in Barcelona and Bolivia or the former Jesuit Marko Rupnik “have had an impact on the Society of Jesus and on the credibility of the order, as happens in any case of abuse. I noticed it already in 2010 when the first news broke in Germany at a Jesuit school in Berlin which led to a great flood of news about abuse.”
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.