Most German priests accused of sex abuse were normal

The vast majority of German priests accused of sexually abusing minors were psychologically normal, according to research commissioned by the Catholic Church.

Only 12 per cent of those studied were diagnosed as paedophiles, according to a report released by Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference spokesman on abuse cases.

Psychological testing showed that a further 5 per cent could be classified as ephebophiles — those with a preference for teenage sexual partners.

“There are no significant differences to results found in the general population in Germany,” reported Dr Norbert Leygraf, of the Institute of Forensic Psychiatry at Duisburg-Essen University, who was one of the experts commissioned to review reports on priests involved in sexual abuse cases in the past decade.

At least 66 priests were accused of 576 cases of sexual abuse of children or adults during that period. Three-quarters of the 265 alleged targets of abuse were male.

Most of the cases took place between the 1960s and 90s “in a period when a different social awareness and a lower sensitivity to the theme of sexual acts on children and youths still prevailed”, Dr Leygraf said.

“The alleged sexual abuse was committed for reasons that can mostly be described as within normal psychological bounds and only a few cases resulted from a specific psychopathology,” he said.

According to the study, 54 per cent of the priests were identified as heterosexual, 37 per cent as homosexual and nine per cent as bisexual.

Almost all the priests said they met their victims in their parishes or in schools. Asked why three-quarters of the victims were male, Bishop Ackermann noted that many cases dated back several decades when priests were likely to come into contact only with boys.

“There were no girl altar servers back then,” he said. “The boys were there and were the ones the priests had the most to do with in their daily work.”

At a news conference, Bishop Ackermann ruled out any suggestion that celibacy was a contributing factor in the abuse that occurred. “There is no causal connection between a celibate way of life and sexual abuse,” he said.



Australian Associated Press

Image: Washington Post

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