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News > Germany

Cardinal Marx Urges Eliminating Secrecy in Sex Abuse Cases

  • People at the 'March for Zero Tolerance' in Rome, Italy, Feb. 23, 2019.

    People at the 'March for Zero Tolerance' in Rome, Italy, Feb. 23, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 23 February 2019

The German Episcopal Conference president recalled that social networks make it impossible to conceal data on sexual misconduct.

On Feb. 23, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the German Episcopal Conference president, called for reconsidering the norm of pontificial secrecy in cases of sexual abuse of minors, during a summit in which the leaders of the Catholic Church are addressing the issue.


Victims of Clergy Abuse Call for 'Zero Tolerance' Ahead of Talk

The Munich archbishop pointed out that "in the era of social networks, where it is possible that each and every one establishes contact almost immediately and exchange information through Facebook, Twitter... It is necessary to redefine confidentiality and secrecy, and make a distinction with respect to data protection."

In addressing to the leaders of the Catholic Church, Cardinal Marx also stressed that "any objection based on pontifical secrecy would only be relevant if compelling reasons could be shown... As things stand, I know of no such reasons."

The elimination of the pontifical secret, an action which the victims of abuses by the clergy have asked in numerous occasions when considering that it protects the aggressors, has been frequently heard since the meeting began.

The U.S. Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley, who presides the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, affirmed that "it is important to review the whole concept of pontifical secret" for these cases.

On third day of the Vatican summit on sexual abuse, Veronica Openibo, a Nigerian Holy Child Jesus Sister, blasted what she called a culture of “mediocrity, hypocrisy, and complacency," which had brought Catholic church to a disgraceful condition.

"We proclaim the Ten Commandments and parade ourselves as being the custodians of moral standards and values and good behavior in society," Openibo said and asked "Hypocrites at times?... Yes! Why did we keep silent for so long?... How could the clerical Church have kept silent, covering these atrocities? The silence, the carrying of the secrets in the hearts of the perpetrators, the length of the abuses and the constant transfers of perpetrators are unimaginable." 

In his speech, Cardinal Marx also insisted on the need for public communication of the sex abuse cases and exhorted to establish transparent norms for ecclesiastical processes.

"If we fail, we will lose the opportunity to maintain a level of self-determination about the information or expose ourselves to the suspicion of the cover-up," he said and added that "the processes and procedures established to prosecute the crimes were deliberately ignored, even canceled or annulled, and the rights of the victims have been trampled and left to the mercy of each individual."

The Vatican’s first high-level summit on clergy sexual abuse began on Feb. 21 with five video testimonies from abuse survivors. At the meeting 190 participants, 114 of which are presidents of episcopal conferences and 80 are high-level religious, listened testimonies coming from different parts of the world.

An African victim, who was forced to have sex with a priest for thirteen years in a row, told that "I was pregnant three times. He made me abort three times, simply because he did not want a condom or contraceptives... he hit me, and since I was totally dependent on him economically, I suffered all his humiliations."

Another victim from Asia said that "I have been sexually harassed for a long time, more than a hundred times, and this sexual harassment has created traumas and memories... It is difficult to live life, it is difficult to connect with people... Every time I have spoken with the Provincials and Major Superiors, all of them have concealed the authors and that kills me," as reported by El Perfil.

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