Bishop wants to remain in office despite mistakes

Osnabrück (dpa) – Despite breaches of duty in dealing with those affected by sexualized violence in the diocese of Osnabrück, Bishop Franz-Josef Bode wants to remain in office. The 71-year-old Catholic priest said on Thursday that he was responsible for “significant deficits and serious mistakes,” most of which were made during his tenure. “I myself have acted negligently in some cases.” These breaches of duty of care may have been due to his gullibility or his hesitancy.

“But it was never done with the intention of deliberately covering up or perverting justice,” the bishop asserted. “I ask forgiveness from all those who have suffered even greater suffering than they experienced before as a result of my mistakes and omissions.”

Bode referred to the interim report on a three-year study by the University of Osnabrück. The diocese itself commissioned the researchers to investigate sexualized violence against minors and vulnerable adults in its territory. The church provided 1.3 million euros for this purpose. Until 1995, today’s archdiocese of Hamburg also belonged to the diocese of Osnabrück. It also includes areas in western Lower Saxony and parts of the city of Bremen.

Bode, who is also deputy chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference, said he had carefully considered the question of whether he could remain in office after the results of the study or whether he would offer the Pope his resignation. He was aware that his credibility was severely damaged. However, he wanted to make the work-up his main task from now on. Among other things, the bishop announced the establishment of an ombudsman for those affected and the appointment of an independent officer. This person should ensure the proper process in any case of suspicion or abuse.

According to the interim report, the responsible authorities of the church have often treated victims of sexualized violence bureaucratically and dismissively, and there has also been no appropriate financial recognition of the suffering. In the past, dangerous priests were left in office and only transferred to another parish. The scientists see a positive development on this point: Accused priests are now being removed from service more quickly. Overall, the study speaks of 70 accused in the church since 1945.

© dpa-infocom, dpa:220922-99-858582/2

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