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Germany

Germany's Catholic Church Suddenly Halts Major Study On Priest Sex Abuse

Cologne Cathedral at sunset
Cologne Cathedral at sunset
Roland Preuss*

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.

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Society

In Northern Kenya, Where Climate Change Is Measured In Starving Children

The worst drought in 40 years, which has deepened from the effects of climate change, is hitting the young the hardest around the Horn of Africa. A close-up look at the victims, and attempts to save lives and limit lasting effects on an already fragile region in Kenya.

Photo of five mothers holding their malnourished children

At feeding time, nurses and aides encourage mothers to socialize their children and stimulate them to eat.

Georgina Gustin

KAKUMA — The words "Stabilization Ward" are painted in uneven black letters above the entrance, but everyone in this massive refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, calls it ya maziwa: The place of milk.

Rescue workers and doctors, mothers and fathers, have carried hundreds of starving children through the doors of this one-room hospital wing, which is sometimes so crowded that babies and toddlers have to share beds. A pediatric unit is only a few steps away, but malnourished children don’t go there. They need special care, and even that doesn’t always save them.

In an office of the International Rescue Committee nearby, Vincent Opinya sits behind a desk with figures on dry-erase boards and a map of the camp on the walls around him. “We’ve lost 45 children this year due to malnutrition,” he says, juggling emergencies, phone calls, and texts. “We’re seeing a significant increase in malnutrition cases as a result of the drought — the worst we’ve faced in 40 years.”

From January to June, the ward experienced an 800 percent rise in admissions of children under 5 who needed treatment for malnourishment — a surge that aid groups blame mostly on a climate change-fueled drought that has turned the region into a parched barren.

Opinya, the nutrition manager for the IRC here, has had to rattle off these statistics many times, but the reality of the numbers is starting to crack his professional armor. “It’s a very sad situation,” he says, wearily. And he believes it will only get worse. A third year of drought is likely on the way.

More children may die. But millions will survive malnutrition and hunger only to live through a compromised future, researchers say. The longer-term health effects of this drought — weakened immune systems, developmental problems — will persist for a generation or more, with consequences that will cascade into communities and societies for decades.

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