Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Germany: the “shadow Catholics” and the wounds caused by the paedophile scandal


The Vatican is listening to a “noisy minority that is convinced it is always right”, which acts surreptitiously in the shadows and treats every criticism as a sign of treachery. The accusation comes from the Jesuit, Klaus Mertes, the former director of Canisius College in Berlin, who, in January 2010, made several cases of child abuse within his institute public, triggering a scandal that has really shaken the Catholic church in Germany over the last few months.

In an interview with the weekly news magazine “Der Spiegel Mertes” he explained that he had received hate mail in which he was accused of treachery and of wanting to destroy the Church. Even a Cardinal in the Vatican has called for him to be thrown out. “I can accept that. What seems more serious to me is that there is a part of the Ecclesiastical hierarchy that is bowing down to these people who are lashing out, because they are afraid of being insulted themselves. The hierarchy is acting in an opportunistic way towards this noisy minority that is convinced it is always right," he said.

Mertes defined them as “shadow-Catholics who tactlessly seek to provoke” and as people “who interpret every criticism as disloyalty and disavow those who have questions thus spreading dark suspicions”. My worry, the Jesuit said, is that these people are “being listened to in the Vatican. It leaves one particularly bitter that their accusations are being accepted in Rome. Those who behave this way are protected by their anonymity and can act in the shadows. They are important because they are given that importance from on high.”

Mertes then takes the blame about the abuse issue. “We played down the sexual violence and kept quiet for too long.” Since the scandal, “we have made several steps forward but we still have a long way to go before we reach the end.” The Jesuit is particularly angry with Cardinal Sodano who defined the accusation of abuse as “the gossip of the moment”. “It is incredible, I was gobsmacked at how anyone could say anything like that. I am still ashamed today about that comment," he remarked. “I was consoled by the fact that the Cardinal of Vienna, Christoph Schönborn publicly contradicted him. I am extremely grateful for that.”

The church needs to start talking openly about sexuality, Mertes added. He will transfer to a Jesuit College in the Black Forest in September. “When someone wants to talk about the sex issue the people at the top are terrified that the discussion will no longer be under their control. And at the end of the day they are scared of losing their power. We ask questions and the response is a huge silence.” He concludes that many Catholics are showing “weariness and deep resignation because when they try to talk, they are met with a wall of silence from a parallel world.”

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