German diocese probes sex abuse allegations
A Roman Catholic diocese in Germany is investigating four priests and two nuns for allegations they sexually abused children decades ago, the diocese said Monday.
The Regensburg diocese, in eastern Germany, began looking into the allegations after they surfaced two weeks ago, said diocese spokesman Clemens Neck.
"The work of the last 14 days has shown us that serious wrongdoing was committed by spiritual leaders and members of the church," Neck said at a press conference called to provide an update on the investigation.
"We deeply regret what the spiritual leaders and church members did to these children and youths, and we ask for forgiveness on their behalf."
Neck said seven people have reported incidents of sexual abuse by six people who are still alive. He said others have reported being abused by people who are now dead, but did not give any figures.
In all of the cases the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution has now expired — with allegations against five of the six dating from before the mid-1970s and the accusation against the sixth from 1984.
Still, Neck said, all information was being turned over to the public prosecutors' office for evaluation.
"All concrete allegations are turned over to prosecutors, regardless of whether the statute of limitations has expired," he said. "That is up to prosecutors to decide."
No details were given about the priests and nuns under investigation.
Spreading abuse scandal
The Regensburg cases come among a spiralling child abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church in Germany, in which some 300 former students have come forward with claims of physical or sexual abuse.
Abuse scandals involving Catholic dioceses, monasteries and other institutions have also hit several other countries, with victims in Ireland, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Italy all coming forward recently with allegations of abuse as well as coverups.
In an unprecedented letter Saturday, Pope Benedict XVI apologized to Ireland for the chronic child abuse within the Catholic Church there.
Benedict's message Saturday — the product of weeks of consultation with Irish bishops, who read it aloud at masses across this predominantly Catholic nation — rebuked Ireland's church leaders for "grave errors of judgment" in failing to observe the church's secretive canon laws.
He also appealed to priests still harbouring sins of child molestation to confess.