At Crisis you will find a devastating article by a friend of mine, Msgr. Hans Feichtinger. He look at recent statistics of abuse in the caput malorum omnium, the German Church and what German bishops are proposing to do.
This piece reveals what happens when theological liberals/dissenters run the show. It isn’t pretty.
According to a recent study conducted at the University of Ulm (Germany), the number of minors who suffered sexual abuse within the German Church is much higher than previously assumed. In comparison with other countries, however, this is not surprising, and was to be expected. Even more surprising has been another finding in the study: the number of victims is equally high in Protestant churches (which in Germany are mostly Lutheran and Reformed). Another horrific discovery is the high percentage of particularly serious crimes committed by clergy.
When it comes to reacting to abuse in the Church, the Germans are lagging behind the English-speaking world. They are also far behind when it comes to church renewal because the German church establishment is still stuck in the 1970s. Vague concepts of “going further than the changes made by Vatican II” and of updating doctrine and discipline to be more pleasing to the world, are powerful and widespread attitudes among the bishops. This may also have to do with how deeply intertwined the ecclesiastical leadership is with the political and judicial establishment. As elite opinion moves in a progressive direction, the German bishops are sure to follow close behind.
Consequently, now the disappointment is even greater. The Ulm study estimates that over the last 70 years over 110,000 young people suffered sexual abuse by Catholic clergy, and an equal number by Protestant ministers. The state seems to have relied on the churches doing their own internal policing. Society has long treated the churches mostly as providers of moral orientation and, therefore, as good role models. Now confidence in the churches is at all-time lows. In light of the Ulm study, the churches appear to be no better than the rest of the world; for some, the churches are even worse, either because of the number of cases, or because they claim to demand the highest standards but fell far short. In any case, the status of the churches as providers of moral guidance is seriously damaged.
Instead, the Church needs to take facts and figures seriously, both those that show how the Church is not very different from other institutions, and those that point to specific problems (like the high number of adolescent boys abused and what that might tell us about the presence of homosexuality in the priesthood). Therefore, the German bishops’ plan to launch a synodal process on celibacy, sexual morality, and clerical power is misguided. It does not take the facts seriously, and instead will move the Catholic Church in Germany closer to where its Protestant counterpart has been for decades. The German Episcopal Conference declaring that this process will be “open” to any kind of outcome is disturbing and is reminiscent of the confidence they displayed at the disastrous post-Vatican II Würzburg Synod. That Synod cemented structures of dissent and did not strengthen missionary zeal among German Catholics—quite the opposite. Analogously, we can expect that the now proposed “synodal process” will not help fight sexual abuse in the Church, and it will not lead to the desired ecclesial renewal. This is evident to anyone who knows the situation of the Catholic Church in Germany, and more so to Lutherans, Anglicans, and other denominations who have chosen “synodal progression” in order to review church doctrine. As the late Catholic philosopher Robert Spaemann observed: “A church which takes the course of adaptation will not be able to work in a missionary way.”