Catholics must deal with abuse: flock fights for its shepherd

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Written By Maya Cantina

In Wolfenbüttel, Pastor Matthias Eggers is on the verge of losing his office – he has criticized the diocese’s revaluation policy. The community is in turmoil.

View from the choir to the crowded church, on the left of the photo Reverend Eggers is looking at his congregation.

Only at Christmas it is overcrowded as usual: the residents of Wolfenbüttel want to keep their pastor Photo: Simon Benne

HANOVER taz | There has probably not been such unrest in St. Peter’s Church in Wolfenbüttel for a long time: last Sunday it was fuller than at Christmas, even the beer benches brought in were not enough, signatures were collected outside, the altar boys unfurled a bannerwhere it said: “If Matthias goes, then we go too.”

At least that is how various media and stakeholders describe it. The – apparently very popular – pastor Matthias Eggers had previously given a sensational interview. In the Hildesheimer Allgemeine Zeitung from May 18 On a double page spread he criticized the Catholic Church’s lack of willingness to provide information cases of sexual abuse. There is talk of ‘facade Catholicism’ and ‘double standards’.

Five days later he had to report to the bishop. The staff meeting had been planned for some time and was going to be about internal conflicts and their future use. In the end, it was all about his public statements.

Bishop Heiner Wilmer asked him to voluntarily resign from office. He was given fifteen days to think about it. To this extent the representations of the diocese and Eggers agree. They differ on whether he was also threatened with deportation on this occasion.

It’s not just community members who are outraged

Since Sunday, expressions of solidarity have been piling up across the entire political and religious spectrum: from the Affected Council North, the non-party mayor of Wolfenbüttel, Ivica Lukanic, the SPD district leader Christiana Steinbrügge, the CDU in the district and the city, the Protestant Provost Dieter Schultz-Seitz and the Turkish-Muslim community.

This is remarkable because the diocese of Hildesheim is considered very progressive when it comes to investigating abuse. When Bishop Heiner Wilmer took office in 2018, he promised to “turn over every stone” and with this ambition he made himself unpopular with many fellow bishops.

“No bishop has ever found such clear words,” Reverend Eggers praises to this day. This actually set a lot of things in motion. But ultimately the powers of perseverance are also very strong.

“There are many beautiful words everywhere, but only so many actions until the public loses interest,” Eggers criticizes in the article HAZ-Interview. Ultimately, this also applies to the diocese of Hildesheim. There, on the other hand, the criticism is found to be unjust and too general.

After all, the third major study has just been launched and the staff unit for prevention, intervention and education has been expanded several times since 2012, says the spokesperson for the diocese Volker Bauerfeld.

Those affected are running out of time

But Matthias Eggers has run out of patience. And if you have his Blog “Bringing light into the darkness” If you read it carefully, you can guess why. He describes growing up in church, the first years as a pastor without any idea of ​​this ‘dark parallel world’.

Until at a certain point he spoke to the first victim and increasingly revealed that these things had not happened somewhere, but directly in his environment. Eggers, who also describes himself in the blog as an ‘official of a perpetrator organization’, has rigorously chosen the side of the victims.

He is emotional, feels torn and perhaps that is why he sometimes crosses the line: for example, when he refuses to allow the auxiliary bishop to be present at confirmation, because in his opinion he has not fulfilled his responsibilities.

But Eggers also knows that many of those affected are running out of time. In the interview he describes the case of a man who belonged to his parish. He had been abused in the Bernwardshof children’s home, the recognition allowance was disappointingly low, the disability pension was barely sufficient and the community supported him.

He would have liked to make his knowledge available for processing, but he died before the current investigation was commissioned, while the allegations against the institution have actually been known since 2012. That is one of the reasons why Eggers calls for education to move forward faster and more energetically and to be more firmly anchored in local communities.

However, in the diocese people still believe that they are on the right track – even though it is of course still a long way. “We take this issue very seriously, but it is also a long and complex process,” the spokesperson said. When it comes to personnel matters, we just want to wait and see. It’s now up to Eggers to make a decision, they say. And it would be good if he would contribute something to de-escalation.

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