Sunday, March 28, 2010

'I had some contact with pupils, it went too far’

From The Times March 27, 2010

‘I had some contact with pupils, it went too far’
A German priest accused of abuse in the 1980s writes that his downfall was 'proximity to the pupils'
First person: a German priest accused of abuse in the 1980s
It happened on a Tuesday afternoon, four weeks ago, at 3pm. My boss came and asked to speak to me. He said: “A campaign has begun, your name has been mentioned.”

A few hours later the vicariate general granted me leave. I don’t know who said what. I only know that someone called the hotline the diocese had set up. Now proceedings have been initiated, but I have not yet been questioned.

The day after the conversation with my boss, I left my [church] community where I have served as a priest for the past 23 years ... I am staying in a monastery. I don’t dare show my face where I used to live, I daren’t go on to the street. It’s not fellow priests I fear — they are very worried about me, though I expected they would blacklist me — it’s the public. The caller accused me of sexual abuse. That’s a very common term nowadays, you can imply everything with it: coincidental contact, conscious contact, all sort of different sexual practices. I don’t yet know the period to which the allegations refer.

However, I know that I had some contact with pupils, at the beginning or the middle of the eighties, where I went too far, and which I do not approve of today. I lived with about 30 boys, aged between 13 and 16, in one house. There were four homes, each led by a padre. None of us had a supervisor, we were alone with the boys. Today I would say that was a mistake, not to have had a person there to supervise us ...

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At 10.30pm I always did a walkabout, to check if everything was in order. That was my downfall, this proximity to the pupils ... So it happened, during my walkabouts, that for a while I sat on the bed of one of them if he happened to be awake. I talked to the boy, stroked the upper part of his body. And while doing so, sometimes, I kind of accidentally slipped deeper. It was not conscious, more like in passing.

Sometimes I even apologised, but I didn’t make a fuss, anyway I felt the boys did not take it very badly. It rather appeared to me as if it did them good that I cared for them. One said once: “It is not so bad.”

Only years later did it occur to me that I had crossed the line. Most of us work until we reach 75. Where will I live in the future? I cannot go back. I left all my friends.

Today I just sit, every day I sit, in the monastery, where they received me very generously. I read, I pray and I worry about the future. And in between I cry often.

© All rights reserved. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung GmbH, Frankfurt. From the Frankfurter Allgemeine Archive.

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