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German bishops expand sex-abuse guidelines

German bishops expand sex-abuse guidelines

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FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. BERLIN — Germany's Roman Catholic church introduced new guidelines Tuesday on handling reports of sexual abuse that require prosecutors to be informed of any suspected cases.

The expanded guidelines come in response to hundreds of allegations of abuse at the hands of clergy that emerged earlier this year and rocked the church in Germany — Pope Benedict XVI's homeland.

Stephan Ackermann, the Bishop of Trier who was tapped by church authorities to lead the revision of the 2002 guidelines, said special attention had been given to the issue of involving law enforcement officials.

"Because in the past it has led to misunderstandings, I stress again that the investigations by church authorities and by prosecutors are parallel investigations," Ackermann told reporters Tuesday in Trier.

The earlier guidelines only "advised" that priests contact prosecutors on their own in "proven cases" of abuse. Church authorities were not required to contact law enforcement officials.

Yet critics charged Tuesday that the revamped rules do not go far enough in addressing the issue of abuse, by failing to clarify issues of financial compensation for victims and by allowing offending clergy to continue to serve within the church.

"Once he has been an offender, we really don't want someone like that in the diocese anymore, even working in a nursing home or a prison," said Christian Weisner of the We Are Church group, insisting there should be a "zero tolerance" policy on abuse in Germany.

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