Father Hans Zollner SJ, president of the Centre for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, has accused the Church of not shouldering responsibility for its sins.
Speaking at a meeting in Bonn organised by Kommission für Zeitgeschichte, – the German Commission for Contemporary History – entitled Dark Spaces – The Church and Sexual Abuse”, the abuse expert said he failed to see a clear sense of responsibility and accountability in the Church and asked himself why that was. Was the Church incapable of assigning clear tasks and taking responsibility? Zollner asked.
He also questioned why the Church asked individual Catholics to confess their sins and atone for them, but the Church itself as an institution failed to do so.
He admitted the Church was changing but the change was far too slow. The same procedure of denying and refusing to come to terms with clerical sexual abuse was still evident in church communities the world over, he said, adding: “Very often the church leadership only reacts if pressurised from outside [by the secular world].”
At the German bishops’ conference’s plenary last month, Zollner emphasised that in future those responsible in any way for clerical sexual abuse would have to step down. “We may have to force resignations by using public pressure, but it will happen. Whosoever has incurred guilt, stands accountable and must accept responsibility,” he said.
The Church was not a special world of its own and it must ask for and publish names. “Who made the abuse possible? Who was responsible? Who stopped people from acting responsibly and reporting the abuse?” were questions that had to be answered.