Germany's Catholic Church Turns Away Rape VictimsS

Germany has a massive problem with the Catholic Church. The country's tax-funded Catholic hospitals, schools, and nursing homes make their own rules in a moral vacuum, even though their decisions on who can put his penis in whose vagina in what circumstances affect millions of Germans. The church is the second-largest employer in the country, after the government, and between 90 and 100 percent of the funding for most of the Catholic Church's social facilities comes from the state. Since Germany has a social welfare system, it encourages private organizations to acquire public assets. That means the Church gets to decide how countless children are raised, the types of moral standards both employers and patients/students must abide by, and who deserves medical treatment and who doesn't. On the naughty list: divorcees, couples who use artificial insemination, gay people, obvs (or even people who express sympathy towards the LGBT movement), and rape victims.

Der Spiegel reports:

On December 15, a 25-year-old woman came to an emergency medical facility in the Nippes neighborhood of Cologne, claiming that she had been raped. The doctor on duty, Irmgard Maiworm, treated the victim. She notified the police and prescribed the morning after pill.

Maiworm then informed the nearby St. Vincent Hospital, which is run by the Cellitine order, that she was transferring her patient there for evidence-gathering purposes. But her Catholic counterparts refused to help. The Hospital of the Holy Spirit, also run by the nuns, likewise turned down Maiworm's request. The doctors at the church-run hospitals told her that their ethical guidelines required them to reject the patients. "I could hardly believe it," Maiworm says.

The Catholic doctors' reluctance is in keeping with the policies of Joachim Meisner, the conservative archbishop of Cologne. "Rape victims are transferred to other facilities," says his spokesman, "if the intention to take the 'morning-after pill' is evident."

The order called the incident "very regrettable" and "a misunderstanding" — after it made national news, of course. But, as Der Spiegel notes, "Turning away rape victims can hardly be called a misunderstanding" — especially when Sylvia Klauser, the order's chief ethics officer, clearly detailed the hospital's procedures for handling rape victims:

The notes the doctor made on the conversation reveal an astonishing aspect of the order's policy: As long as patients who have been raped are "responsive and capable of being moved," they are to be transferred "to a city facility." The apparent goal of the policy is to ensure that the nuns and doctors will not be confronted with a possible abortion.

Many of Germany's politicians are horrified. "The scandalous incidents in Cologne sharply contradict the Christian social mission," said Sylvia Löhrmann, deputy governor of the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia and the state's education minister. "Not helping a woman who has been raped is a violation of human decency. In doing so, the church harms itself more than anything."

But the Catholic Church has more clout than she does. Catholic organizations run 420 hospitals through Germany, and they employ 165,000 staffers who are taught to comply with bishops, not politicians. In some rural areas, the church essentially has a monopoly because it controls kindergartens, hospitals and nursing homes. Now, even though the country's number of churchgoers is decreasing, the influence of bishops is increasing; in 1950, both the Catholic and Protestant churches in Germany had 130,000 civilian employees (excluding ministers and members of religious orders); that number has climbed to over a million.

So what's to be done? "In an extreme case, the Green Party politician [Löhrmann] envisions the elimination of entire facilities from the hospital plan," Der Spiegel reports. "And this would hit the churches where it hurts: in the wallet." We don't envy her that uphill battle.

[Der Spiegel]