German Protestant Churches Investigate Abuse Claims

By Stephen Brown
Religion News Service

GENEVA (RNS/ENInews) In the wake of sexual abuse allegations in Germany's Catholic Church, two regional Protestant churches say they are investigating abuse allegations filed against pastors or church workers.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hanover reported five new cases of the sexual abuse of minors dating back several decades, the German Protestant news agency EPD reported on May 19.

"We want to deal with this as openly and as transparently as possible," acting Hanover Bishop Hans-Hermann Jantzen said, according to ENInews. "Any case is one too many."

The North Elbian Evangelical Lutheran Church said it is investigating allegations of sexual abuse by a pastor, who is now retired. The man is alleged to have sexually abused several young people in a congregation in Ahrensburg.

The allegations come during a scandal of sexual abuse by clergy that has hit the Catholic Church in Germany. A recent ecumenical church convention in Munich heard calls for reform and greater transparency in the Catholic Church to deal with what has been called a crisis of confidence.

Protestant leaders, however, have acknowledged their churches are also caught up in the scandal.

"The credibility that we as churches owe other people, and which is rightly expected of us, has for the time being evaporated," Protestant Bishop Martin Hein of Kassel told the conference. "What was done to people within the Church is gradually coming to light. Gradually, often after decades, the curtain behind which everything was hidden is being pulled away."

With almost 3 million members, the Hanover church is the largest regional Protestant church in Germany. The North Elbian church has about 2 million members. Germany's Catholics and Protestants each make up about 30 percent of the country's population of 82 million.