Research projects

Here you can read more about the research projects on sexual abuse with which the German Bishops' Conference is concerned.

Research project on sexual abuse in the sphere of the Catholic Church Presentation of MHG study (September 2018) 

The most recent MHG study will be presented at a press conference during the autumn full assembly of the German Bishops’ Conference in Fulda at 1.15 p.m. on 25 September 2018. Referred to by its short title “MHG Study”, it is named after the locations of the Universities that are involved in the research consortium, namely M(annheim)-H(eidelberg)-G(ießen), and is entitled “Sexual abuse of minors committed by Catholic priests, deacons and male religious in the sphere of the German Bishops’ Conference”.

More detailed information and statements by Cardinal Reinhard Marx (Munich and Freising), President of the German Bishops’ Conference, and Bishop Dr. Stephan Ackermann (Trier), Special Commissioner of the German Bishops’ Conference on all questions relating to sexual abuse of minors and on issues of child and youth protection in the Church’s sphere of influence, as well as the Secretary of the German Bishops’ Conference, participating researchers and members of the project’s advisory board, will be made available here during the press conference.

“We stand alongside those who are affected by sexual abuse” – Cardinal Marx leads a service in Schoenstatt (16 September 2018)

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, President of the German Bishops’ Conference, led a service in Schoenstatt today (16 September 2018), and called on those present not to look away from the sufferings of those who are affected by sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Cardinal Marx spoke before several hundred faithful, saying: “The Church goes through highs and lows. At this very moment, we are thinking of the dark sides of what has happened and is happening in the Church. We are deeply distressed, shaken and ashamed by the reality of the sexual abuse of minors in the Catholic Church.”

Since 2002, and then especially from 2010 onwards, and now again, the Church felt that the deep wound of abuse was not healing. “We stand alongside those who have been subjected to sexual abuse. This is our ongoing commitment. It is still devastating to see what this unimaginable suffering has done to children and juveniles who have entrusted themselves to priests. God looks at us through the eyes of those who are affected; He suffers just as the victims do from the things that were done to minors by priests – men who wished to follow God. God suffers from what we overlook, where we have looked away, what we did not wish to acknowledge. He looks at us through the eyes of those who are affected, who are beaten, who are wounded. That is why a new beginning is needed in this Church, towards those who are affected and towards God”, said Cardinal Marx.

The study by the German Bishops’ Conference, parts of which have already been published in advance, is to help us achieve focus once more. “We will talk about this at the full assembly of the Bishops’ Conference in Fulda and ask ourselves what the consequences are”, said Cardinal Marx. This service in Schoenstatt is therefore to seek God’s mercy in a special way. “We need this mercy to renew the gift of faith. We furthermore need mercy in order to unearth the truth of what is happening in the midst of our community – through a lack of attentiveness, a lack of sensitivity, and a lack of love. So the Church is asking for God’s mercy, for the Church and for all people”, said Cardinal Marx.
During the service, Cardinal Marx evoked the 50th anniversary of the death of the founder of Schoenstatt, Fr. Josef Kentenich. The priest had been a keen observer of his time, and had been on the lookout for what was new. “This must also be our mission today, to see the signs of the times and to dare to consider what is new.” With its chapel of grace, Schoenstatt is a place which inspires and encourages, where one can hear what the Spirit has to say. “As Pope Francis emphasises, we have been accepted into the communion of the Church, as one people, as one parish. The Spirit is always at work, we just have to be attentive to Him and listen to what He is telling us at this time. To do this, we need the courage to walk new paths”, said Cardinal Marx. “What does God want to tell us in these times? What is His mission for us? We cannot make that up, but we need to be attentive and vigilant, precisely in order to recognise what is happening, including the bad things. We must not look away”, Cardinal Marx appealed to the faithful. He stressed that this also applies to those in positions of responsibility in the Church.

Making a new start of necessity entails leaving the old behind, “there can be no question of business as usual; the question is how we can think of something new in the Church without forgetting the past, the tradition, the path of the Church. Let us look out for what is to be done now, what we can do, what we may dare, indeed what we can risk”, said Cardinal Marx. Fr. Kentenich had risked something like that in life. “I feel the chapel of grace again and again as a source of encouragement and of strength. I would like to thank the Schoenstatt Movement for the service of prayer, awakening and spiritual renewal in the Church, which found its way through the founding figure of Fr. Kentenich”, said Cardinal Marx.

Bishop Ackermann on the study entitled “Sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests, deacons and male members of orders in the domain of the German Bishops’ Conference” (12 September 2018)

Due to the indiscretion and the ensuing publication of the study entitled “Sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests, deacons and male members of orders in the domain of the German Bishops’ Conference” (MHG Study) by several media in Germany today (12 September 2018), the Special Commissioner of the German Bishops’ Conference on all questions relating to sexual abuse of minors and on issues of child and youth protection in the Church’s sphere of influence, Bishop Dr. Stephan Ackermann (Trier), has made the following statement:

“I regret the fact that the study, which had so far remained confidential, and with it the result of four years of research work on the subject of “Sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests, deacons and male members of orders in the domain of the German Bishops’ Conference”, carried out by the research consortium led by Prof. Dr. Harald Dreßing (Coordinator, Central Institute for Mental Health in Mannheim) was published by the media today. This incident is all the more exasperating since even the members of the German Bishops’ Conference have yet to see the complete study.

Particularly with regard to those who are affected by sexual abuse, the irresponsible advance publication of the study is a severe blow. We have planned for the autumn assembly week (24-27 September 2018) to set up an advice hotline for anyone who is troubled by the media reporting and would like to talk to someone. Until the telephone helpline is available, we would like to ask these individuals to contact the telephone counselling service (Tel. 0800/1110111 or 0800/1110222), the Internet pastoral service (www.internetseelsorge.de), or the dioceses’ commissioners on abuse (list on the subject page www.dbk.de/themen/sexueller-missbrauch/informationen-fuer-betroffene).

The autumn full assembly of the German Bishops’ Conference will consider the study and the consequences to be drawn from it on 25 September 2018 as planned. We will present and explain the study together with the research consortium at a press conference to be held in the early afternoon.

We are aware of the magnitude of sexual abuse which is documented by the results of the study. It is both distressing and shameful for us. We commissioned the study four years ago, and particularly we as bishops are facing up to the results. The assembly in Fulda will be the first event seeking to serve this purpose. The objective of the study, in which all 27 dioceses in Germany have taken part, is to obtain greater clarity and transparency about this dark side in our Church, not only for the sake of those who are affected, but also in order to see the transgressions for ourselves and to be able to do everything possible to ensure that they do not happen again. We are interested in a responsible and professional analysis. I am convinced that the study is a comprehensive and thorough survey which provides figures and analyses from which we will continue to learn. This also applies to the findings, which enable a more profound insight into the actions of the perpetrators and the conduct of church leaders over the past decades. I repeat: The study is something that we owe not only to the Church, but first and foremost to those who are affected.”

Research project on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church is extended (June 2017)

The interdisciplinary research project "Sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests, deacons and male religious in the domain of the German Bishops' Conference" ("MHG Study") is extended by nine months until September 2018 on the advice and recommendation of the research consortium. The results will be published in the autumn of 2018. This step is necessary due to the scope and complexity of the project. After the advisory board of the project had also expressed this view, the Permanent Council agreed to this extension at its most recent meeting.

The research consortium commissioned by the German Bishops' Conference in March 2014 is led by Professor Dr Harald Dreßing from the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim as coordinator.  In addition to the Central Institute of Mental Health Mannheim (Professor Dr Harald Dreßing, Professor Dr Hans-Joachim Salize), the members of the research consortium include the Institute of Criminology at the University of Heidelberg (Professor Dr Dieter Dölling, Professor Dr Dieter Hermann), the Institute of Gerontology at the University of Heidelberg (Professor Dr Dr Andreas Kruse, Professor Dr Eric Schmitt) and the Chair of Criminology at the University of Gießen (Professor Dr Britta Bannenberg).

Background
On 28 August 2013, the research project was first announced by the German Bishops' Conference. At the Spring Plenary Assembly of the German Bishops' Conference in Münster (10 to 13 March 2014) the decision was taken in favour of the research consortium. Bishop Dr Stephan Ackermann stressed at the presentation of the new project: "We want clarity and transparency about this dark side in our Church – for the sake of the victims, but also in order to see the offences for ourselves and to be able to do everything to ensure that they will not be repeated".

Joint Research Project "Sexual Abuse" – Interim Results (June 2016)

On 24 March 2014, the German Bishops' Conference presented the interdisciplinary joint research project "Sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests, deacons and male religious in the domain of the German Bishops' Conference" in Bonn. Since then, several subprojects have been started, which have now been presented by the research consortium led by Professor Dr Harald Dreßing (Central Institute of Mental Health Mannheim). In the following, we document the presentation of the research consortium, in which the subprojects and findings from international studies are introduced.
Download presentation in German (Link)

Interdisciplinary research consortium conducts study on "Sexual abuse of minors" (March 2014)

On 24 March 2014, the German Bishops' Conference presented the interdisciplinary joint research project "Sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests, deacons and male religious in the domain of the German Bishops' Conference" in Bonn. Bishop Dr Stephan Ackermann (Trier), the Special Commissioner of the German Bishops' Conference on all questions relating to sexual abuse, was able to present the research consortium.

The research consortium is led by Professor Dr Harald Dreßing from the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim as coordinator. In addition to the Central Institute of Mental Health Mannheim (Professor Dr Harald Dreßing, Professor Dr Hans-Joachim Salize), the members of the research consortium include the Institute of Criminology at the University of Heidelberg (Professor Dr Dieter Dölling, Professor Dr Dieter Hermann), the Institute of Gerontology at the University of Heidelberg (Professor Dr Dr Andreas Kruse, Professor Dr Eric Schmitt) and the Chair of Criminology at the University of Gießen (Professor Dr Britta Bannenberg).

On 28 August 2013, the research project was first announced by the German Bishops' Conference. Within the application deadline of 31 October 2013, three interdisciplinary research associations with a total of 22 scientists submitted draft proposals. At the Spring Plenary Assembly of the German Bishops' Conference in Münster (10 to 13 March 2014) the decision was taken in favour of the research consortium. Bishop Dr Stephan Ackermann stressed at the presentation of the new project: "We want clarity and transparency about this dark side in our Church – for the sake of the victims, but also in order to see the offences for ourselves and to be able to do everything to ensure that they will not be repeated". At the same time, he emphasized that the Catholic Church in Germany had already done a lot in the field of investigation and reappraisal: "This includes, above all, the adoption of significantly stricter guidelines as well as our comprehensive and, especially in the state sector highly recognized framework regulation for prevention, the material recognition of sufferings, therapy support, numerous further training courses and our commitment at the international level as well as the successful telephone hotline.”

Professor Dr Harald Dreßing explained that the aim of the three-and-a-half-year study was "to examine sexual abuse within the Catholic Church as transparently as possible, both for those affected and for the public. As part of a modular project process, not only data from church archives are to be evaluated, but also external data sources are to be included, which make a comparative analysis with other forms of institutional abuse possible." The experiences of the victims should be included from the outset in the development of the research instruments, but also in the interpretation of the results through the establishment of an advisory board: "This advisory board will include those affected and scientists as well as representatives of the Church. It will accompany the project scientifically and ethically". Professor Dreßing added: "The many facets of the issue will also be addressed through interviews with victims, perpetrators and responsible church officials". The present research approach will enable a comprehensive analysis of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church through the consideration of mutually independent sources of knowledge and perspectives and will "investigate the question whether there are or have been specific structures and dynamics within the Catholic Church that have promoted abuse offences."

Bishop Ackermann explained that the Bishops' Conference hoped that the study would lead to a good and solid collection of data on the frequency of sexual abuse of minors and on the question of how to deal with it. "In addition, a qualitative analysis of institutional influences in the sense of a 'perpetrator-victim-institution dynamic' should take place. The main aim is to gain a deeper insight into the actions of the perpetrators and the behaviour of church leaders in the past decades. This insight should be gained through exemplary interviews with those affected, with church officials and with perpetrators," said Bishop Ackermann. It is important that the study brings together existing national and international empirical findings and study results.

During the presentation of the research project Bischof Ackermann also recalled the two already existing evaluations on the problem of sexualized violence in the area of the Catholic Church in Germany: In December 2012, the results of the study "Sexuelle Übergriffe durch katholische Geistliche in Deutschland – Eine Analyse forensischer Gutachten 2000-2010" (Sexual assaults by Catholic clergy in Germany – an analysis of forensic expert opinions 2000-2010) (Professor Dr Norbert Leygraf, Director of the Institute of Forensic Psychiatry at the University of Duisburg-Essen and Dr Andrej König, Dortmund University of Applied Sciences), could be presented. In January 2013, the "Activity report on the termination of the telephone hotline of the German Bishops' Conference for victims of sexual abuse" was published. The hotline was activated from March 2010 to December 2012.

Note:
The presentation of the research consortium is available for download as pdf files
24 March 2014: Presentation Interdisciplinary Research Project (in German)
Download

Results of the analysis of forensic-psychiatric reports (December 2012)

The German Bishops’ Conference and the Institute of Forensic Psychiatry at the University of Duisburg-Essen presented the results of the study „Sexuelle Übergriffe durch katholische Geistliche in Deutschland – Eine Analyse forensischer Gutachten 2000–2010” (“Sexual assaults by Catholic clergy in Germany – an analysis of forensic expert opinions 2000–2010) on 7 December 2012 in Trier.
Already in the year 2002 the German Bishops' Conference issued binding guidelines for all dioceses on how to deal with sexual abuse within the Catholic Church and since then has continuously commissioned forensic-psychiatric expert opinions. The Institutes of Forensic Psychiatry of the University of Duisburg-Essen under the direction of Professor Dr med. Norbert Leygraf, of the Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin with the head Professor Dr med. Hans Ludwig Kröber and of the Forensic Psychotherapy Section of the University of Ulm under the direction of  Professor Dr med. Friedemann Pfäfflin prepared the majority of these reports. In cooperation with Dr Andrej König from the University of Applied Sciences Dortmund, Department of Applied Social Sciences, Methodology and Forensic Psychology, the study on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in Germany began in April 2011. In the course of the study, expert opinions were evaluated between 2000 and 2010 and the results are now available.

Study:
Sexuelle Übergriffe durch katholische Geistliche in Deutschland: Eine Analyse forensischer Gutachten 2000–2010. Final report 2012. Ed.: Norbert Leygraf, Andrej König, Hans-Ludwig Kröber, Friedemann Pfäfflin.