A criminologist who was investigating sexual abuse of minors by priests has been sacked German Roman Catholic bishops.
Christian Pfeiffer has accused them of trying to censure a major report on the scandals, which looks at cases dating back to 1945.
But Matthias Kopp, spokesperson of the Catholic Bishops Conference, says the investigation will be continued without him:
“We did not give up the research project. Of course it will be continued in order to come to terms with sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. It is not a matter of with or without Pfeiffer. We terminate the work with Pfeiffer today because the mutual trust is totally broken.”
A series of abuse scandals forced Pope Benedict to issue an apology and offer compensation to victims in 2010, but Pfeiffer says a cover-up continues:
“It is obvious that the project has failed because of the Catholic Church’s wish to control and to censure,” he said.
“We were asked to sign a new contract in which the Church would have had the right to forbid the texts that had been written by us over years of work if they don’t like it.”
Norbert Denef is an abuse victim and has called for outside investigators to get involved:
“You can compare it to the Mafia solving its own crimes,” he says. “Then we would also say that that this doesn’t work and this is similar to this case. The crimes can only be investigated from outside.”
In 2010 revelations of abuse in boarding schools prompted around 600 people in Germany to file allegations against priests and around 180,000 Catholics left the church in protest that year.
Similar investigations into the records of priests accused of molesting children have been conducted in recent years in the Netherlands, Belgium and Ireland, with sometimes devastating results for the reputation of the church involved.