Sexual abuse by Catholic clerics

Project period

2011 – 2014

Project staff

Prof. Dr. Christian Pfeiffer (Project manager)

Dr. Deborah F. Hellmann (geb. Thoben) (Project manager)

Dipl.-Soz. Sandra Fernau

Laura Treskow (research assistant)


Deutsche Bischofskonferenz

Own funds

Cooperation partner

Pädagogische Hochschule Freiburg (Prof. Eva-Maria Bitzer)

Alanus Hochschule Alfter (Prof. Paula Bleckmann)

Project description

Project description: Following the cancellation by the German Bishops Conference of the research project on sexual abuse of minors by catholic priests, deacons and male members of religious orders, KFN continued on its own account with the qualitative interview-based study as well as a quantitative survey of victims of sexual abuse by Catholics priests. The primary aim was to conduct a scientific investigation into the reasons for and dynamics and consequences of such cases, and their retrospective interpretation by the victims. It was hoped the research would produce findings regarding specific risks at offender, victim and situational level, and provide insights for use in improved abuse prevention.

For the most part, this involved tracing how the abuse began, what it entailed from the victims’ perspective, and detecting the initial, long-term and developmental consequences the abuse may have triggered. One key issue was to analyse the abusers’ actions and to identify the relevance of influencing factors that had driven them to do what they did. It was also hoped that the study would clarify how the Catholic Church behaved towards the victims.

Project related Publications
  • Hellmann, D. F., Fernau, S., Baier, D., & Pfeiffer, C. (2015). Sexueller Missbrauch durch katholische Geistliche in Deutschland. Zentrale Ergebnisse einer Betroffenenbefragung. Nervenheilkunde, 34(7), 525-529.
  • Hellmann, Deborah (2014): Victims of sexual abuse by catholic clerics and their needs for compensation. In: Temida 17 (3), S. 27–48. DOI: 10.2298/TEM1403027H.
  • Fernau, Sandra; Hellmann, Deborah F. (Hrsg.) (2014): Sexueller Missbrauch Minderjähriger durch katholische Geistliche in Deutschland. 1. Aufl. Baden-Baden: Nomos (Interdisziplinäre Beiträge zur kriminologischen Forschung, 45).
  • Pfeiffer, C., Mößle, T., & Baier, D. (2013). Zensur versus Forschungsfreiheit. Datenschutz und Datensicherheit-DuD, 37(7), 428-433.