Questions & Answers regarding the article “Gut und Böse” in the ZEIT supplement “Christ&Welt”

1. How did the newspaper come into possession of the letter?
We do not know. The letter is from 2010. It was addressed to the Vatican and several German dioceses.

2. Was the letter known to ACN?
The letter was in the archives of the organisation.

3. In which context was the letter written?
From 2009 to 20011 Auxiliary Bishop Mandred Grothe carried out a visitation of „Kirche in Not“. Fr. Werenfried, who had already died in 2003, was not the object of the visitation. Rather it solely focussed on the organisational modernisation of the organisation with a modernization of the charity. This was carried out on behalf of the Congregation for the Clergy that was responsible for the charity. During this time a number of people tried to start a beatification process for Fr. van Straaten. It was in this context that Auxiliary Bishop Grohe learned of the serious allegations against Fr. van Straaten. He  wanted with his letter to immediately put a stop to any possible beatification process.

4. What is ACN’s opinion of the allegations?

Aid to the Church in Need deeply regrets the grave allegations that have been made. The organisation completely condemns the kind of behaviour of which Father van Straaten is accused in the article. ACN is committed to an unreserved clarification. We have examined the allegations from the sources currently available and have taken a position on the following points raised

5. Werenfried has been accused of a sexual assault: is that true?

The accusation constitutes an extremely grave case. It concerns a serious sexual assault that is supposed to have taken place in 1973. As Fr. van Straaten had died seven years before the accusation was made, it was no longer possible to have a comment about the alleged deed that was supposed to have taken place 37 years earlier. According to the documents we have available, there was no knowledge of any accusations against Fr. van Straaten of a sexual abuse nature.

6. How old was the person concerned at the time of the incident.

The person concerned was 23 years old at the time.

7. How did Fr. van Straaten know the person concerned?
At the time she was working for the charity.

8. When did ACN learn about the incident?

The charity learned about it in 2010 – seven years after the death of Fr. van Straaten – when the person concerned reported the incident.

9. How did ACN react to the accusation?
The leadership of the charity took the accusation very seriously. It immediately sought out the person concerned and in a personal meeting listened to her. Her portrayal of the incident seemed very plausible. Consequently, the charity declared its willingness to pay a solidarity payment in order to underline its desire to recognize the suffering of the person concerned and to try to mitigate the consequences of the incident for this person.

10. Which civil and ecclesial authorities were informed?

As soon as the accusation became known, Aid to the Church in Need informed the Congregation for the Clergy and the President of the German Bishops‘ Conference about the allegations. The bishop of the diocese of the person concerned as well as the responsible for the Premonstratensian Order were also informed of the accusations. The launch of criminal proceedings did not take place due to the fact that Fr. van Straaten had already died in 2003.

11. Did ACN pay compensation to the person concerned?

The portrayal of the incident by the person concerned seemed very plausible to the leadership of the charity. There were no other indications, documents or witness statements. At the time, ACN paid the affected person compensation totalling €16,000: €10,000 in an attempt to acknowledge the suffering she had experienced and €6,000 to meet pension claims from the affected person’s prior employment in Aid to the Church in Need.

12. If ACN paid money to the person concerned, is that not a sign of acceptance of guilt? Potential victims are rightly paid financial assistance if the facts of the crime appear credible after an examination, even if there is no further clear evidence and the accused can no longer be questioned. Most sexual offences take place without witnesses, so the possibilities of legal evidence are often lacking.

13. Was there not already previously a payment to the family of the person concerned?

According to files in the archives,  we can assume that in 1996/1997 Fr. van Straaten gave money to the father of the person concerned. The father of this person denied in writing in 2011 that this payment had anything to do with a sexual assault on his daughter. Rather it was a compensation for his unfair treatment by Fr. van Straaten when he left his job with ACN.

14. Why did ACN not go public immediately after learning about the allegation of sexual assault?
The person concerned expressed a clear wish for the confidential handling of the accusation. There was also the concern to prevent damage to the reputation of the charity and to harm the project work.

15. Was the accusation concealed in order to protect the image of Fr. van Straaten?

The accusation was made seven years after the death of Fr. van Straaten. When ACN learned about the incident in the autumn of 2010, the charity immediately contacted the family concerned in order to investigate the accusation without delay. A representative of the charity and then Bishop Grothe reacted with full respect for the pain of the person concerned after she described the proceedings in a plausible way. The newly appointed Executive President at that time visited the family in 2011 after being informed of the facts of the incident. He decided that a sum of 16.000 EUR should be paid in recognition of the pain of the person concerned. Research has not been concluded yet. At the same time, personality right of all the persons concerned is to be respected..

16. Are further accusations of sexual misconduct by Fr. van Straaten known?

So far, either from documents available or from other sources, there are no indications of further accusations of sexual misconduct by Fr. van Straaten. In 2016 ACN initiated a comprehensive search of the archives of the Congregation for the Clergy. There was no evidence found to suggest further sexual crimes or sexual assaults on the part of Fr. van Straaten.

17. Was Fr. van Straaten a supporter of fascism?

In his writings during the 55 years in which he lead the charity (1947-2003) there is no indication of far-right or fascist leanings. On the contrary, Fr. van Straaten condemned all dictatorships and took a strong stance against them.

18. What can be said about the accusation of excesses in his personal lifestyle?
The accusation of excesses in his personal lifestyle is based on individual reports of an excess of alcohol or food. We cannot confirm this accusation from the information available to us.

19. Is it true that Fr. van Straaten showed deficits in the leadership of the charity? Father van Straaten founded the charity in 1947 and led it for 55 years until his death in 2003. During this period, there were various conflicts and disputes with staff members. The management style at that time certainly did not correspond to today’s understanding of modern personnel management. The introduction of new management and control bodies, as well as the emphasis on an appreciative work culture, was an important development after the completion of the visitation that took place in 2011.

20. Why did a Papal visitation take place in ACN between 2009 and 2011?

The Papal visitation (2009-2011) was mandated to initiate the organisational modernisation of the organisation in order to continue to effectively pursue its mission of supporting suffering and persecuted Christians.

 21. Had the visitation anything to do with the person of Fr. van Straaten?

The visitation was in no way related to the person of Father van Straaten. He had already been dead for six years at the beginning of the visitation. The visitation was exclusively aimed at modernising the charity.

22. Why did Pope Benedict XVI re-establish ACN in 2011 as a Pontifical Foundation?

The result of the Papal visitation was a reorganisation and restructuring of the co-operation between the national offices and the headquarters in Königstein, Germany. Numerous consequences were drawn from the detailed final report of the visitation, above all the legal re-establishment as a Pontifical foundation,  the revision of the statutes, the introduction of new management and control bodies, and since 2019 the establishment of safeguarding for the prevention of sexual abuse as a priority of the organisation both internally and in the decision making process for project funding.

23. After the allegations came to light, did ACN draw any consequences regarding Father van Straaten’s importance within the charity?

ACN has revised all organisational areas since 2011. Father van Straaten now has his place in the presentation of the history of the charity as the person of the founder. The focus of the work today is exclusively on the situation of Christians in need worldwide and their support through the charity.

24. Does ACN regret the alleged incidences?
ACN deeply regrets the serious allegations and condems any kind of bevahiour of which Father van Straaten has been accused in the article. Since 2011, decision-making and control structures have been put in place to avoid misconduct, abuse and to foster a collegial working culture.

25. What is Aid to the Church in Need’s position today regarding a possible beatification process of Fr. van Straaten?

Aid to the Church in Need, as a Pontifical Foundation, has never engaged in such a process and has no  interest in pursuing this in the future.

26. What is ACN doing today to ensure that such misconduct is not repeated?

The Papal Visitation from 2009 to 2011 had the mandate to initiate the organisational modernisation of the charity. The result of the Papal visitation was the revision of all areas of the organisation, as well as the legal re-establishment as a Pontifical foundation, the revision of the statutes, the introduction of new management and control bodies. In particular, the establishment since 2019 of “Safeguarding Guidelines” for the prevention of sexual abuse as a priority for the ACN, both internally and in project funding, should be highlighted.

Within this framework, regulations and processes have been developed and introduced to ensure this, see: Safeguarding Guidelines

Our Task Areas
Our Regional Activities
Press contact

Latest News

ACN compiles some of the work it has been doing promoting family life...
Two Jesuit priests were murdered by armed men inside a church in Mexico...
Every donation that arrives at ACN is a cause for much joy and gratitude. Behind each of these gifts is an incredible story...

Que signifie pour vous cette visite ?

La visite du Pape nous remontera le moral, plus que toute autre chose. Tous les yeux de la planète seront dirigés vers Baghdeda. Le monde saura ainsi ce qui est arrivé à cette ville : les terribles destructions et la migration forcée. Ce serait également bien si nous recevions ensuite un peu plus d’aide et de soutien. Cette visite est très importante pour nous qui sommes ici, surtout après l’énorme migration forcée de tant des nôtres. Cette visite signifie que nous ne sommes pas seuls et qu’il y a des gens qui prient pour nous. Cela nous donnera de l’espoir, nous encouragera à rester dans notre pays et à ne pas le quitter.

Qu’aimeriez-vous dire au Saint-Père ?

Si j’ai l’occasion de le rencontrer, je voudrais le remercier pour sa visite qui nous rend très heureux, et pour ses prières. Je tiens également à le remercier pour toute l’aide qu’il nous a procurée ces derniers temps. Je n’oublie pas sa grande solidarité et le geste qu’il a fait en vendant aux enchères la Lamborghini qu’on lui avait donnée pour soutenir avec l’argent récolté la reconstruction de la plaine de Ninive. Je voudrais aussi qu’il continue à prier pour nous afin que la paix arrive en Irak.

Qu’aimeriez-vous lui montrer à Qaraqosh/Baghdeda ? Que devrait-il visiter ?

Je voudrais lui montrer l’église historique Al-Tahira et des photos de Baghdeda, je voudrais qu’il voie comment l’État Islamique l’a détruite et comment les gens d’ici ont eu le courage de la reconstruire.

¿Qué significa la visita para usted?
La visita del Papa levantará el ánimo y la moral, más que cualquier otra cosa. Todos los ojos del mundo se dirigirán a Baghdeda. Así, el mundo sabrá lo que le sucedió a esta ciudad. La terrible destrucción y la migración forzada. También sería bueno si luego recibimos más ayuda y apoyo. Esta visita es realmente importante para nosotros, los que estamos aquí, especialmente después de la enorme migración forzada de tantos de los nuestros. La visita significa que no estamos solos y hay quienes rezan por nosotros. Esto nos dará esperanza, nos animará a permanecer en nuestra tierra y no dejarla.

¿Qué le gustaría decirle al santo padre?
Si tengo la oportunidad de encontrarme con él: quiero agradecerle su visita, que nos hace muy felices, y su oración. También quiero darle las gracias por todo lo que nos ha ayudado durante el último periodo. No me olvido de su gran solidaridad y del gesto de subastar el Lamborghini para apoyar con ese dinero la reconstrucción de la llanura de Nínive. También quiero que siga orando por nosotros para que la paz llegue a Irak.

¿Qué le gustaría mostrarle en Baghdeda /Qaraqosh? ¿Qué debería visitar?
Quiero mostrarle la histórica iglesia Al-Tahira y fotos de Baghdeda, quiero que vea cómo fue destruida por ISIS y cómo la gente de aquí ha sido tan fuerte para reconstruirla nuevamente.

Was bedeutet der Besuch für Sie?
Der Besuch des Papstes wird die Stimmung und die Moral heben, mehr als alles andere. Alle Augen der Welt werden auf Baghdida gerichtet sein. Dann wird die Welt erfahren, was mit dieser Stadt passiert ist, die schreckliche Zerstörung und die erzwungene Migration. Es wäre auch gut, wenn wir anschließend mehr Hilfe und Unterstützung bekommen würden. Dieser Besuch ist wirklich wichtig für uns hier, besonders nach der großen Zwangsmigration so vieler unserer Leute. Der Besuch bedeutet, dass wir nicht allein sind, und dass es Menschen gibt, die für uns beten. Das wird uns Hoffnung geben, es wird uns ermutigen, in unserem Land zu bleiben und es nicht zu verlassen.

Was würden Sie dem Heiligen Vater gerne sagen?
Wenn ich die Gelegenheit habe, ihn zu treffen: Ich möchte ihm für seinen Besuch, der uns sehr glücklich macht, und für sein Gebet danken. Ich möchte mich auch bei ihm für alles bedanken, was uns in der letzten Zeit geholfen hat. Ich werde nie seine große Solidarität vergessen sowie die Geste, den Lamborghini zu versteigern (siehe Link zur Meldung), um mit diesem Geld den Wiederaufbau der Ninive-Ebene zu unterstützen. Ich möchte auch, dass er weiterhin für uns betet, damit im Irak Frieden einkehrt.

Was möchten Sie ihm in Baghdida /Karakosch zeigen? Was sollte er besuchen?
Ich möchte ihm die historische Al-Tahira-Kirche zeigen und Bilder von Baghdida, ich möchte, dass er sieht, wie alles von ISIS zerstört wurde und welcher Kraft die Menschen hier es wiederaufgebaut haben.

What does the Pope’s visit mean to you?
The papal visit will lift up our spirits and morale more than anything else. All the eyes of the world will be on Baghdeda. And in this way the world will know what happened to this city. The terrible destruction and the forcible ethnic cleansing. It will also be a good thing if afterwards we get more support and help. This visit is really important to us, to those of us who are living here, especially after the massive ethnic cleansing and expulsion of so many of us. His visit means that we are not alone and that there are people who are praying for us. This will give us fresh hope and encourage us to persevere, here on our own soil, and not leave it.

What would you like to say to the Holy Father?
If I get the opportunity to meet him, I would like to be able to thank him for his visit, which has made us very happy, and for his prayers. I would also like to thank him for all he has done to help us in recent times. I have not forgotten his great gesture of solidarity in auctioning the Lamborghini in order to use the money to help pay for the reconstruction of our homes on the Niniveh plains. I would also like to ask him to continue praying for us and for peace to return to Iraq.

What would you like to show him in Qaraqosh/ Baghdeda? Which places should he visit?
I would like to show him our historic Al-Tahira church, and some photos of Baghdeda. I’d like him to be able to see how it was destroyed by IS and how the people here have worked so hard recently to rebuild it once more.

Qu’est-ce que cette visite signifie pour vous ?

La visite du Pape est ce que nous désirions le plus ici. C’est une grande bénédiction. Nous avons un grand désir de le voir. Ce qui rajoute de l’importance à cette visite, c’est la situation de vulnérabilité que nous, chrétiens, subissons en Irak. Il y a plusieurs raisons à cette fragilité, toutes sont les séquelles de l’État Islamique. Toutes ces destructions ont grandement contribué à l’émigration des chrétiens. De nombreux problèmes pèsent sur nous. Mais par sa visite, le Pape nous donnera de l’espérance et de la confiance, il nous encouragera et réduira notre fardeau. Bien que la situation soit instable en Irak en ce qui concerne la sécurité, tout spécialement dans le domaine politique, on s’attend à ce qu’à l’arrivée du Pape, sa sécurité soit correctement assurée.

Qu’aimeriez-vous dire au Saint-Père ?

Je voudrais lui demander de me donner sa bénédiction, de bénir mon travail et le dévouement des prêtres d’ici, et de bénir le peuple par ses prières. Je voudrais lui demander d’aider tous ceux qui sont en danger dans ce pays, qu’ils soient chrétiens ou musulmans. Qu’il tente de mobiliser les pays du monde entier pour soutenir ce pays qui a besoin d’aide.

Qu’aimeriez-vous lui montrer à Qaraqosh/Baghdeda ? Que devrait-il visiter ?

J’aimerais qu’il visite l’église Al-Tahira, parce que c’est un symbole et un élément du patrimoine de Baghdeda. Cette église est la mère, le foyer et le patrimoine de chacun des habitants de Baghdeda. Nos ancêtres ont construit cette église, nous avons tous le sentiment d’en faire partie. Bien sûr, nous serions heureux qu’il visite de nombreux endroits, des églises, monastères et maisons traditionnelles, et qu’il rencontre également beaucoup de gens qui ont le désir de le voir.

¿Qué significa la visita para usted?
La visita del Papa es lo que más hemos deseado aquí. Es una gran bendición. Sentimos un gran anhelo de verlo. Lo que agrega importancia a esta visita son las condiciones tan vulnerables que sufrimos los cristianos en Irak. Hay varios motivos para esa fragilidad, todas las secuelas que ha dejado el ISIS, esa enorme destrucción ha llevado en gran medida a la emigración de cristianos. Muchos problemas pesan sobre nosotros. Pero cuando nos visite, nos dará esperanza, confianza y aliento y reducirá esta carga. Además del hecho de que la situación de seguridad en Irak, especialmente la política, es inestable, se espera que a la llegada del Papa se garantice su seguridad de manera correcta.

¿Qué le gustaría decirle al santo padre?
Querría pedirle que me dé su bendición, que bendiga mi servicio y la entrega de los sacerdotes aquí y que bendiga al pueblo a través de sus plegarias. Le pido que ayude a todos los que están en peligro en este país, ya sean cristianos o musulmanes. Que intente movilizar a los países del mundo para que apoyen a este país que necesita ayuda.

 ¿Qué le gustaría mostrarle en Baghdeda / Qaraqosh? ¿Qué debería visitar?
Me encantaría que visite la iglesia Al-Tahira, porque es símbolo y patrimonio de Baghdeda. Esta iglesia es madre, hogar y herencia de cada uno de los habitantes de Baghdeda. Nuestros antepasados ​​construyeron esta iglesia, todos nos sentimos parte de ella. Ciertamente, nos alegraría que visitara muchos lugares, iglesias, monasterios y casas tradicionales,  también que vea a muchas personas que anhelan verlo.

Was bedeutet der Besuch für Sie?
Der Besuch des Papstes ist das, was wir uns hier am meisten gewünscht haben. Es ist ein großer Segen. Wir spüren eine starke Sehnsucht, ihn zu sehen. Was diesen Besuch noch wichtiger macht, sind die äußerst prekären Bedingungen, unter denen wir Christen im Irak leiden. Es gibt mehrere Gründe für diese Zerbrechlichkeit. All die Folgen, die ISIS hinterlassen hat, diese enorme Zerstörung hat in großem Maße zur Auswanderung von Christen geführt. Viele Probleme lasten auf uns. Aber wenn er uns besucht, wird er uns Hoffnung, Zuversicht und Ermutigung geben und diese Last verringern. Auch wenn die Sicherheitslage im Irak, insbesondere die politische Situation, instabil ist, hoffen wir, dass bei der Ankunft des Papstes seine Sicherheit ausreichend gewährleistet ist.


Was würden Sie dem Heiligen Vater gerne sagen?
Ich möchte ihn bitten, mir seinen Segen zu geben, meinen Dienst und die Hingabe der Priester hier zu segnen und die Menschen durch seine Gebete zu segnen. Ich bitte ihn, all jenen zu helfen, die in diesem Land in Gefahr sind, ob sie nun Christen oder Muslime sind; und die Länder der Welt zu mobilisieren, um dieses Land, das Hilfe braucht, zu unterstützen.

Was möchten Sie ihm in Baghdida / Karakosch zeigen? Was sollte er besuchen?
Ich möchte, dass er die Al-Tahira-Kirche besucht, denn sie ist ein Symbol und Erbe von Baghdida. Diese Kirche ist die Mutter, die Heimat und das Vermächtnis eines jeden einzelnen Menschen in Baghdida. Unsere Vorfahren haben diese Kirche erbaut, wir alle fühlen uns als Teil von ihr. Sicherlich würden wir uns freuen, wenn er viele Orte, Kirchen, Klöster und traditionelle Häuser besuchen würde, und auch, wenn er viele Menschen treffen würde, die sich danach sehnen, ihn zu sehen.

What does the visit mean to you?
The papal visit is the thing we have longed for most of all here. It will be a great blessing. We have a great yearning to see him. What gives added importance to this visit is the so very vulnerable situation that we are suffering as Christians in Iraq. There are many reasons for this vulnerability, including the aftermath of what IS left behind, the enormous destruction which has led in such large measure to the emigration of the Christians. There are many problems weighing on us. But when he comes to visit us, he will give us new hope and confidence and some relief from this burden. In addition there is the fact that the security situation in Iraq, and especially the political situation, is so unstable, so we are hoping that when the Pope does arrive they will guarantee his security in the way that they should.


What would you like to say to the Holy Father?
I would like to ask him to give me his blessing, to bless my ministry and the hard work of all the priests here, and also to bless all the people through his prayers. I would ask him to help all those in danger in this country, whether they are Christians or Muslims. And that he might strive to encourage the countries of the world to support this nation, which is truly in need.

What would you like to show him in Qaraqosh/ Baghdeda? What places ought he to visit?
I would love him to visit the Al-Tahira church, because it is a symbol and a rich cultural legacy of Baghdeda. This church is the mother, the home and the inheritance of every one of the inhabitants of Baghdeda. Our forefathers built this church, and we all feel we are a part of it. Of course, we would be happy for him to visit many different places – churches, monasteries and traditional homes – and also for him to be able to meet all the many people who are longing to see him.

Que signifie pour vous cette visite ?

Elle a une valeur morale, et non pas économique. Cette question occupera l’opinion publique mondiale, et tout spécialement irakienne. J’ai l’impression d’y tenir une place importante.


Qu’aimeriez-vous dire au Saint-Père ?

Ce sera formidable de faire sa connaissance, et je voudrais lui dire : « Nous avons besoin d’une protection internationale parce que notre communauté chrétienne a subi une migration forcée ».

Qu’aimeriez-vous lui montrer à Qaraqosh/Baghdeda ? Que devrait-il visiter ?

J’aimerais lui montrer les églises et les maisons brûlées, afin qu’il voie les dégâts que l’État Islamique a laissés derrière lui dans cette ville. Et aussi notre Musée du patrimoine de Baghdeda pour lui présenter notre histoire et notre culture.

¿Qué significa la visita para usted?
La visita tiene un valor moral, no económico. Este tema ocupará la opinión pública en el mundo y especialmente en Irak. Siento que tengo un lugar importante en él.


¿Qué le gustaría decirle al santo padre?
Será genial conocerlo y querría decirle “necesitamos protección internacional, porque nuestra comunidad cristiana ha sufrido una migración forzada”.

¿Qué le gustaría mostrarle en Baghdeda /Qaraqosh? ¿Qué debería visitar?
Me gustaría mostrarle las iglesias y las casas quemadas, para que vea el daño que dejó ISIS en esta ciudad. Y también nuestro Museo del patrimonio de Baghdeda para presentarle nuestro historia y cultura.

Was bedeutet der Besuch für Sie?
Der Besuch hat einen moralischen Wert, keinen wirtschaftlichen. Er wird die öffentliche Meinung in der Welt und insbesondere im Irak beherrschen. Ich habe das Gefühl, dass ich einen wichtigen Anteil daran habe.

Was würden Sie dem Heiligen Vater gerne sagen?
Es wird großartig sein, ihn zu treffen, und ich möchte ihm sagen: „Wir brauchen internationalen Schutz, weil unsere christliche Gemeinschaft unter der erzwungenen Auswanderung gelitten hat“.

Was möchten Sie ihm in Baghdida /Karakosch zeigen? Was sollte er besuchen?
Ich möchte ihm die Kirchen und ausgebrannten Häuser zeigen, damit er den Schaden sieht, den ISIS in dieser Stadt angerichtet hat. Und auch unser Heimatmuseum in Baghdida, um ihm unsere Geschichte und Kultur näher zu bringen.

What does this visit mean to you?
This visit has a moral value rather than an economic one. This is a topic that will engage public opinion around the world and especially in Iraq. I feel as though I have an important part to play in it.

What would you like to say to the Holy Father?

It would be wonderful to be able to meet him, and I would like to be able to say to him, “We need international protection, because our Christian community was forcibly displaced.”

What would you like to show him in Qaraqosh/ Baghdeda? What places should he visit?
I would like to be able to show him the churches and houses that were burnt out, so that he could see the destruction left behind by IS in this city. And also our Baghdeda Heritage Museum, so that we can show him our history and culture.