German Cleric Urges Forgiveness for Predator Priests Labeled as 'Criminals'

Members of the Holy Spirit Church walked out the sermon in protest
Retired priest, Ulrich Zurkuhlen, has caused quite a stir in the city of Münster, northwest Germany, after urging everyone to practice forgiveness for priests who had sexually abused minors.

This message by Zurkuhlen comes at a difficult time for the Roman Catholic Church which is currently dealing with a barrage of allegations from different parts of the world of priest’s predatory conduct as well as church attempts at cover-ups.

The German Bishops’ Conference published a report in 2018 which said that 1,670 priests, which is almost 4.4 percent of clerics were guilty of abusing 3,677 people between 1946 and 2014 in Germany.

Kirche-und-Leben.de, an internet portal, reported that 70 members walked out of the congregation in protest. Several parishioners tried to argue with the 79-year-old Zurkuhlen. The priest wasn’t able to finish the sermon as the situation became chaotic. There were several victims of abuse present at the sermon.

When interviewed by Kirche-und-Leben.de, Zurkuhlen spoke about how even bishops call predator priests “criminals.” He argued that while this was true, these men are good clerics in their communities.”Nobody is just profoundly evil. Goodness and guilt are often combined with each other or stand side by side without touching.”

Zurkuhlen then said it is time for the church to say a word of forgiveness after a specific time frame. Unable to convey the meaning forgiveness to “the screaming mob” was a “real shock,” he said.

A spokesperson for the diocese has said the focus must be on the victims and not the perpetrators.

Stefan Rau, another priest at the Holy Spirit Church, has expressed his regret at Zurkuhlen’s position. He told Kirche-und-Leben.de that he does his best to give his colleagues in the pastoral team management encouragement. Rau has said that there has been a conversation with Zurkuhlen as well as the entire pastoral team and there will be follow up conversations.

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