German bishops tighten seminary screening process

German Catholics apply new priest selection procedures after abuse failings

Admitting past failures in dealing with cases of sexual abuse by clergy against young people, Germany's Roman Catholic bishops have announced stricter procedures for selecting new priests, writes Anli Serfontein.

"We know that we failed," Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, chairperson of the bishops' conference, told the meeting of 67 diocesan and auxiliary bishops from the 27 German dioceses during the opening ceremony on 20 September. Then, in a statement, Zollitsch said that, as part of the new prevention programme, the bishops had decided to put a special emphasis on the training and selection of priests.

"One of the most important criteria for serving as a priest is the development of a stable personal identity. Therefore, as part of a process of prevention before they are accepted, we must pinpoint necessary therapeutic steps for potential candidates, who may have deficits in their personality development or have mental problems. Eventually, we may have to resolutely reject candidates who are not suitable," Zollitsch told journalists.

The new framework for the prevention of sexual abuse includes a code of behaviour, a stricter selection of employees, quality management, internal and external church channels to report sexual abuse, and specialised training courses to recognise abuse.

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