The Rev. Ansgar Thim, who handles abuse cases for the Roman Catholic diocese of Hamburg, says he was "overwhelmed" by the extent of revelations about Jesuit priests molesting children and adolescents – first in Berlin, and later at the St. Ansgar School in Hamburg, the St. Blasien College in the Black Forest, and in several parishes in Lower Saxony. "We're not prepared," he says. "But there is movement now."
At the same time, some 100 former pupils of Odenwald, a secular, progressive elite school, said sexual abuse there had been rampant.
Like Jesuit schools, the Odenwald School has long educated a German elite seeking an alternative to public education. But while the Jesuits focused on discipline, Odenwald thrived in the anti-authoritarian context of the late 1960s.
Born out of a philosophy of teaching children according to their individual desires and needs, it is located at the foot of rolling hills near Frankfurt.
Uprooting children from what it sees as the negative impact of urban life is part of the approach, says Anne Sliwka, head of research at Heidelberg University's School of Education. In addition to traditional classes like math and German, pupils can take gardening and carpentry; they learn by living in small groups headed by their teacher, the "family head."