From its institution, the universal church of the city of seven hills has shown itself more powerful than governments which at times have challenged its authority and influence.
In 2013, amid the Vatican-led “Year of Faith,”
another such instance occurred as the German Catholic Church told the
Berlin government it had better tow the line regarding the ongoing
administration of the sex abuse scandal.
In a move that stunned government officials, the church shut down
its phone line dedicated to individuals claiming sex abuse at the hands
The line was not being used.
For over two and a half years, the line received calls from victims
and their family members, acting as their initial contact in resolving
alleged acts of clergy exploitation.
“The number you have called is not
in service” is what callers now hear.
A spokesman for the German
Bishops’ Conference claimed the line had served its intended purpose.
In a nationally televised interview, Berlin’s sanctioned arbiter for
underage sex abuse stated, in defiance of the church’s actions, that
such a helpline was “important for the first step towards finding help”
Furthermore, the head of the government’s initiative for those
impacted by such violence and/or abuse openly opposed the Catholic
Church, saying that counseling was offered but that it was not open to
Over the past two years, the church addressed the issues of
exploitation by enacting initiatives such as monetary compensation and
forums to talk about problems.
In response to government opposition to the decision to close the
hotline, the German bishops’ spokesman claimed the church was doing the
job by offering services in all 27 of the country’s dioceses.
easily find their phone number and e-mail address on the Internet,” he said.
In another initial act of the new year, the German Bishops’
Conference declared the church would cancel its cooperative agreement
with Prof. Christian Pfeiffer’s Lower Saxony criminology institute.
The bishops, who requested the institute’s help in 2011 after sex abuse
scandals were exposed - and congregants fled amid the publicity crises,
and Pope Benedict xvi visited the country’s victims - said trust had been destroyed.
Pfeiffer accused the church of blocking proceedings and wanting to control the process.
The professor was so upset at church actions he went to the German
media and said, “We were meant to submit everything for approval.”
“we” he was referring to was a collection of retiree judges and
prosecutors approved to comb through records of church personnel.
In an apparent effort to reassure the 34 percent of German citizens
who claim to be Catholic and destroy the professor’s credibility, the
bishop of Trier declared, “The relationship of mutual trust between the
bishops and the head of the institute has been destroyed.”
church maintained that a new investigation would be commissioned in the
future, but with an altogether different collaborator.
Amid the ongoing power plays, and the resultant cancellation of the
abuse helpline and cooperation with the criminology institute, Europe
announced what is called EC3. This is the Continent’s most recent
attempt to tackle online crime.
It’s headquartered in the European judicial city of The Hague, with
the avowed purpose of halting fraudulent online activity and online
sexual abuse. EC3’s chief, Troels Oerting, optimistically asserted,
“Just like in the offline world, we can’t just put more locks at the
door. We also need to have a criminal-free environment where we can go
safely, and we need exactly the same. So this is why EC3 will focus on
the perpetrators, the gangsters, the criminal networks. Either they are
in loose or in more hard networks.”
At the initiative’s official announcement, EU Home Affairs
commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom added, “EC3 will focus on cybercrime
committed by organized crime groups, particularly those generating large
criminal profits such as online frauds, and cybercrimes which cause a
serious harm to the victims, such as child sexual exploitation.”
If the perpetrators, gangsters and criminal networks of Europe are
to be watched, policed and prosecuted, will EC3 do the same for the
Catholic Church regarding online activity and sexual abuse?
Hague rule Rome and bend the knees of defiant German bishops?