The interior of the St. Stephan in Mainz-Gonsenheim church where the priest was buried, Source: Nixus Minimax on Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED)

Mainz to "erase" grave of abusive priest

Mainz to "erase" grave of abusive priest

Allegations of his criminal misdeeds came to light after his burial, so the parish authorities had to find a way to redress the situation

The church of St. Stephan in Mainz-Gonsenheim contains the grave of a parish priest who served in that capacity from 1955 to 1971 and against whom in recent years allegations of sexual abuse and abuse of power have surfaced posthumously. Given that turn of events many in the community felt uncomfortable going to the church for services and seeing his name on the stone slab covering the tomb in the floor.

The parish council then decided to remove the slab from the floor, fill the grave and cover it with regular tiles so that any trace of its existence would be removed, in essence erasing the memory of the man.

The priest’s name has also been withheld in German media reports due to the so-called postmortem personal rights that continue even after one’s death as allegations of abuse against him while numerous and viable could not be clarified in court since the accused cannot be taken to stand trial.

A board of remembrance for the victims

Apparently, taking the decision to “erase” the priest’s grave was no light matter and it followed discussions between community committees and the diocese for a whole year. The revelations came to light after a study about the cases of abuse in the Mainz diocese was published last year. The report included interviews with victims, who reported having been taken advantage of as children.

In addition, the priest had likely also abused his office to make changes to the church in a way that glorified him more than his position would indicate.

He had the church altar raised. He placed his coat of arms above a door, right next to the coat of arms of the bishop. Even his burial was more typical of a bishop’s rather than that of a priest. The coat of arms should now also be removed.

The parish council has decided to create a board or stele detailing the memory of the abuses as a way of reconciling with the uncomfortable past allegations without trying to sweep them under the rug.



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