1. GA-English

Beueler priest under suspicion: Church publicly seeks more abuse victims

Beueler priest under suspicion : Church publicly seeks more abuse victims

The archbishopric now wants to investigate against a deceased priest from Beuel in connection with further possible cases of suspected abuse. It is searching for those affected with a so-called pulpit declaration. Church services attendants are "in shock".

At the weekend, the church service visitors of the Beuel Catholic parish community Am Ennert were shocked: the Archbishopric of Cologne had a proclamation, i.e. a pulpit declaration, read out in their three churches before the mass. In it, it asked "possible persons concerned for information in connection with the suspicion of sexual abuse" against a deceased pastor from Beuel.

As reported, Michael Schenk, an Old Catholic priest and therapist, raises allegations of abuse against the pastor. The incidents are said to have taken place in the 1970s during the accused's chaplaincy in the Bergisches Land.

Schenk remembers being abused there as a kindergarten child by the subsequent Bonn priest and another clergyman. He had remained silent for a long time and suffered from pain and depression. In therapy, the terrible memories came back to him, he told the GA. And then he put the memories together, identified the priests of that time and informed the diocese in 2004.

A diocesan spokeswoman confirmed last week that the church had held several talks with Schenk from 2019, paid him a "recognition payment" of 5000 Euro and promised to cover future therapy costs.

In the Am Ennert church, it has now been read out that the diocese is asking for "support in clarifying and coming to terms with "(suspected) cases of sexual abuse", i.e. crimes which burden a victim for the rest of his life. For legal reasons it was pointed out that this was a "suspected case in need of clarification". And that the diocese would carefully examine all files and documents, even if the accused had already died.

"We have been in shock ever since"

Nevertheless, the person concerned is obliged to clarify the respective facts in public. One is aware, however, "that such a communication can contain the danger of an unfounded suspicion or always trigger uncertainty, anger and sadness," the archbishop emphasised. After reading the text in Pützchen, Subsidiary Andreas Haermeyer noted on Sunday that he knew the victim Michael Schenk as a person of integrity and considered him credible.

"We have been in shock ever since," churchgoers who did not want to be named told the GA on Monday. Have you trusted a possible "child molester" for years? A long-time volunteer is considering leaving the church. Others exclude the possibility that this popular and deserving pastor is guilty. They ask how memories from early childhood can still lay tracks to suspected perpetrators. Still others wish that the diocese had been enlightened earlier. Namely in 2009, when Schenk instituted preliminary proceedings against the then still living priest, which the Hamburg public prosecutor's office discontinued due to the statute of limitations.

On Monday, City Dean Wolfgang Picken and the pastor Norbert Grund from Beuel spoke out on request. The suspicion of abuse had caused great consternation in the Catholic Church in Bonn. "We are shocked and shaken," both wrote with reference to the alleged victim's descriptions.

"Every case of abuse shames me and leaves me stunned. This incident hits me additionally because I know Michael Schenk personally and have great human respect for him," Picken continued. He had been friends with him during his studies. "I am extremely sorry that Michael Schenk had to go through such terrible experiences.“ He hopes that he will be able to come to terms with this fate as well as possible and receive the support of the archbishopric.

Memorial service was held for the deceased pastor

In general, words fail you when you think about what children and young people have had to endure in the church area in the past, Picken and Grund explained. For years the obvious had been ignored and covered up. It was important to deal with the case completely and to develop the church recognition procedure further, as the archbishopric had promised. "We would like to ask every possible victim to come forward and contact the archbishopric," wrote Pastor Grund. One is confident, adds Picken, "that the allegations will be cleared up. And one expects that everything will be done to help victims and prevent further abuse.

The archdiocese reported on Monday that due to many enquiries, it was not possible to answer the GA questions on the same day. There was also no response from Michael Schenk. From the Holzlar Church came an indignant call from a parishioner: on Sunday a memorial service had been celebrated for the former pastor. "And then the archbishopric is so cold, slapping us in the face with the proclamation afterwards." Tears were shed.

(Original text: Ebba Hagenberg-Miliu;Translation: Mareike Graepel)