Abuse Tracker has chronicled the revelations of sexual abuse by clerics in Germany. It is a story of abuse and cover-ups all too familiar to those who have followed similar revelations in the United States and Ireland. While in quality the abuse in Germany is as bad as in English-speaking countries, in quantity it seems to be significantly less. If this is in fact the case, and not simply a matter of lesser reporting, peculiarities of European continental history may account for the lesser amount of abuse.

In the nineteenth century, Europe began to develop an image of Modern Man, and I mean man, not woman. The New Man was nationalistic, militaristic, rational, scientific. He rejected he world of Catholicism, which was international, pacifist, and superstitious – and feminine. In France, Italy, and Germany the Catholic clergy was attacked as the enemy of true masculinity.

Some who attacked the church more or less explicitly accused the clergy of perversion, either homosexuality or pedophilia.

The New Man took other incarnations in the twentieth century: The Futurist Man, the Fascist Man, and the Nazi Man. In the mid-1930s the Nazi government arrested hundreds of Catholic priests and brothers and charged them with sexual molestation of children and adolescent boys. (see the Wikepedia article) Historians have assumed that these charges were fabricated.

But what we have discovered about the Catholics clergy makes it appear probable that many of the charges were in fact true. The Nazis wanted to attack the Church, and the perverse and criminal behavior by a segment of the clergy gave them the tool. The cases, as far as I can tell, were tried in the regular German courts, not the Nazi courts, and in the regular German courts courts legality largely ruled.

The Nazis may have inadvertently done the Catholic Church in Germany a favor by purging hundreds of abusers from the ranks of the clergy. As a result of that purge, we may now be seeing fewer cases in Germany than in Ireland and the United States.

The memory of the trials of the Nazi era may explain, but not excuse, the touchiness of some German bishops. Germans have a long memory, and anything that reminds them of the Nazi era (Boy Scout uniforms, smoking bans) sets off irrational reactions.

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