An investigation by the Diocese of Hildesheim, Germany, is shedding new light on child sex abuse in Catholic children’s homes in the country in the 1950s. A central figure in the inquiry is an esteemed and controversial figure, Bishop Heinrich Maria Janssen, a former priest in Nazi-occupied Poland awarded Germany’s highest federal decoration in 1966 for postwar charity work.
Volker Bauerfeld, a spokesman for the diocese, told Catholic News Service the allegations against Janssen have “deeply shaken many people” in the diocese, due to Janssen’s status as “one of the most renowned Hildesheim bishops of modern times.”
Although Bishop Janssen and his alleged accomplices are long dead, Bishop Heiner Wilmer, the current bishop, is investigating the matter fully to “bring more light into the darkness.” Bishop Wilmer is launching a vigorous inquiry to investigate sexual abuse allegedly committed by Bishop Janssen and Catholic orphanage chaplains, with the aim of revealing the truth behind a possible local pedophile ring.
Picture: Boys play with Legos at a Catholic orphanage in Bonn, Germany, during Advent in 1960. The number of German children in orphanages surged after World War II. The Diocese of Hildesheim is investigating reports that many children in these homes were victims of sexual abuse by clergy. (CNS photo/courtesy German Federal Archives).