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Priest sex abuse claims climb in Germany

Associated Press / February 19, 2010

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BERLIN - The number of students who say they were sexually abused by Jesuit priests at schools across Germany has jumped to 115, a lawyer said yesterday.

Ursula Raue, an attorney appointed by the order to handle the charges, said that since seven alumni of the private Catholic Canisius Kolleg in Berlin first reported abuses in January, the accusations have “taken on a dimension of previously unbelievable proportions,’’ the DAPD news agency reported.

Raue told reporters that victims have identified 12 Jesuit priests by name and accused women in some cases. She also said rapes have been reported.

The sexual abuse charges are the most widespread involving Catholic priests in Germany, the homeland of Pope Benedict XVI.

Most of the cases date to the 1970s and ’80s, and some as far back as the 1950s. Although very few of them were violent, Raue said the victims still bear the scars.

“These are wounds that never heal,’’ she said.

She said some of the abuse cases were known early on by other teachers and the order, but the accused priests were simply moved to another school.

“In reviewing the files, I have not come across any indication of a concern for the welfare of the children,’’ Raue said, charging that the priests took better care of their own than the children entrusted to their care.

Many of the victims are relieved at finally being able to tell their stories, while others are seeking compensation or an apology, she said.

She also urged the Jesuits to appoint an ombudsman for students still at the schools involved and to train teachers there to be alert to signs of sexual abuse in children.