Justice checks suspected abuse in Catholic children’s home

Justice checks suspected abuse in Catholic children's home

© Steffen Heinemann / dpa

Is it a “second Ettal”? A former pupil of the Catholic Piusheim in Bavaria reported massive abuse in court – not the first allegation of this kind.

The judiciary is investigating allegations of abuse against a former Catholic children’s and youth home in the municipality of Baiern near Munich. The public prosecutor’s office in Munich II, according to its own statements, initiated preliminary investigations against a former educator of the youth village Piusheim as well as a priest at the time.

The background to the investigation is allegations of massive sexual abuse that became known as part of a trial before the Munich II Regional Court. A 56-year-old man, who is himself accused of serious abuse of young children, had shown in court that he had been abused by several men in Piusheim, among others, in his childhood and adolescence.

The witness also spoke of prostitution and “sex parties” around the home. “Ninety percent of the boys went out and stole the villagers at the weekend, ten percent went to Munich to buy.” Two of his friends had hanged himself, and he himself had tried to commit suicide as a child.

These allegations cannot currently be substantiated. “It is not yet possible to say whether the information will prove to be reliable and whether a criminal penalty can ultimately be imposed,” emphasized Karin Jung.

Upon request, the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising confirmed that nine suspected cases of sexual assault or physical violence had been reported in connection with the facility, which has since closed. With one exception, these have not yet been made public.

Only one case went into abuse study

According to the Catholic Youth Welfare Service (KJF), all cases in the home where children and adolescents between the ages of 6 and 18 who were difficult to educate were cared for from the 1950s to the mid-1970s. Only one of these suspected cases was included in the so-called MHG study on dealing with sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

Piusheim also does not appear in the “Westphal Report” on abuse in the diocese. Archbishop was Joseph Ratzinger from 1977 to 1982, later Pope Benedict. Bishopric spokesman Christoph Kappes said that “payments to acknowledge suffering” had been made in two cases.

The defendant’s defense lawyer, Anja Kollmann, considers her client’s statement to be authentic. The 56-year-old had indicated to her in the run-up to the court hearing what had happened to him in his youth. The fact that he reported so extensively about this in court surprised her, and she was shocked by the dimensions of the whole. “This is a second Ettal.”

In the Upper Bavarian Benedictine monastery Ettal, however, it was mainly pupils from privileged families who were able to talk about what had happened to them at some point, says psychology professor Heiner Keupp, who accompanied a study of the situation of home children at the time. “But in these homes there were mainly children from difficult backgrounds who could hardly exchange and reflect on what happened to them.”

Victim representatives criticize the lack of processing

Piusheim was founded in October 1905 by the Catholic “Association for the Care of Neglected and Indefinite Youth”. The KJF took over the sponsorship on October 1, 1981 and resigned on June 30, 2006.

The spokesman for the “Eckiger Tisch” initiative, Matthias Katsch, expressed the hope that former residents of the Piusheim will now report. “I’m sure we will still have a few surprises then.”

The reform movement “We are Church” massively criticized the treatment of abuse in the Catholic Church. They still seem more interested in protecting their own institution “than in naming specific perpetrators and hushers and in exposing the cover-up structures,” said spokesman Christian Weisner.

This raises the question of whether the Catholic Church in Germany is able to process its own history at all – “or whether it is not necessary to have a really independent process carried out by external parties as is the case in other countries such as Ireland or Australia is “.

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