Vallendar, Germany — Catholic religious orders in Germany have set up an inquiry into sexual abuse in their monasteries and convents, following claims that abuse occurred in more than half of all monastic communities.
"We still don't know enough about what happened and is happening in each community, since models of action and prevention are all different," Franciscan Sr. Katharina Kluitmann, chairwoman of the German Orders Conference, said in a May 22 statement to the organization's general meeting in Vallendar.
"Although our path has taken on a clear momentum, we haven't reached our destination. But we have found certain landmarks — and the most important is this isn't about us, but about those affected."
The 55-year-old nun said the inquiry, to be published in early 2020, had been approved unanimously by 200 order leaders at the meeting. She said the inquiry would collect data on victims, prosecution reports, compensation payments and personal files.
She added that greater openness had facilitated a deeper understanding of the problem, but said it was still necessary to study the link between spiritual and sexual abuse, and whether sexual violence was encouraged by certain "religiously favored conditions."
"Abuse is always linked to the misuse of power," said Kluitmann.
"We now need to know how many victims are known in religious communities, how much funding has been disbursed in recognition of their suffering, and which prevention and protection measures are being implemented."
Germany's Catholic orders issued guidelines on handling sexual abuse in 2003; they were revised in 2010 and 2014.
The German Orders Conference, which in 2006 replaced three separate organizations for religious superiors, represents 14,250 female and 3,500 male order members in 400 monasteries and convents across the country, where Catholics make up around a third of the population of 80 million.