MUNICH - A major research project set up to shed light on sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Germany has been shelved, according to information obtained by Süddeutsche Zeitung.
Germany’s Catholic Church has cancelled the project, and a letter to that effect has been sent by the German Bishops’ Conference to the Criminal Research Institute of Lower Saxony, which had been mandated by the Church to handle the project.
Project director Christian Pfeiffer told the Süddeutsche Zeitung that the project failed because of the Church’s "wish to censor and control." Contrary to the original agreement, Church authorities were insisting on a right to choose researchers and determine how and if results would be published.
An agreement had been signed to proceed with the study in July 2011. According to the Criminial Research Institute, the project was to be the most thorough investigation into the subject ever conducted anywhere in the world. The files of all dioceses in Germany – some of them going back to the end of World War II -- were to be examined. In-depth interviews with abusers and victims had also been planned.
However criticisms from clerics led to the Bishops’ Conference legal offices asking for changes in the agreement. Pfeiffer also said he had sent a letter to the Bishops stating that in some dioceses files of abuse cases had been destroyed, and that the letter had never been answered.
Church official Hans Langendörfer presented a different picture. "I don’t have any indication of destroyed files,” he said, adding that the project had failed for data protection reasons among others. The Church had been open to compromise on the issue of publication, he said, but now its confidence in Pfeiffer had been "shattered."
*This is a digest item, not a direct translation.