Cardinal: Church destroyed documents on clergy sex abuse

German Cardinal Reinhard Marx speaks during a news conference Saturday at the Vatican, after addressing a summit on clergy sexual abuse. He gave details of a study in Germany that files documenting child sexual abuse by clergy were destroyed. Photo by Armando Babani/EPA

Feb. 24 (UPI) — German Cardinal Reinhard Marx said Saturday the Catholic Church destroyed files to prevent documentation of decades of sexual abuse of children by clergy members.

The cardinal gave details of a study conducted in Germany to 190 leaders, including cardinals, bishops and heads of religious orders, attending the third day of the four-day summit convened by Pope Francis in the Vatican.

“Files that could have documented the terrible deeds and named those responsible were destroyed or not even created,” Marx, the archbishop of Munich and president of the German Bishops’ Conference, said during his half-hour speech. “Instead of the perpetrators, the victims were regulated and silence imposed on them.

“The stipulated procedures and processes for the prosecution offenses were deliberately not complied with but instead canceled and overridden.”

He said those practices “will make it clear that it is not transparency which damages the church, but rather the acts of abuse committed, the lack of transparency or the ensuing cover-up.”

Marx, a member of Pope Francis’ inner circle of advisers, said the information came from a study commissioned by German bishops in 2014. He said the “scientific” study didn’t name the particular church leaders or dioceses in Germany that destroyed the files.

The study revealed that at least 3,677 cases of child sex abuse by German clergy occurred between 1946 and 2014.

During a news conference after his speech, Marx said “I assume Germany is not an isolated case.”

Before Marx spoke at the summit, Nigerian Sister Veronica Openibo, Superior General of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, described a culture of “mediocrity, hypocrisy, and complacency” that she said had brought the church to a “disgraceful and scandalous place.”

Openibo blasted priests who supported the accused over victims, and said she has serious concerns about current formation practices, including Francis’ own record on abuse.

Turning to Francis, she said she admired him for being “humble enough to change your mind, to apologize and take action” about sexual abuse in Chile.

During his 2018 visit to Chile, Francis was criticized for defending a bishop accused of knowing about abuse by a priest. Later, the pope apologized in a public letter to the people of the country. In addition, he has accepted the resignations of several Chilean bishops accused of abuse or cover-up.

On Thursday, the first day of the summit, there were five video testimonies from abuse survivors.


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