“Accusations completely groundless”

The accusations are fierce: since Wednesday afternoon, there has been public suspicion that Freiburg Archbishop Robert Zollitsch had something to do with aiding and abetting sexual abuse. The story was put into the world by "Report Mainz". And it quickly drew circles, although even before the broadcast the baselessness of the accusations became clear.

The background is the report by an alleged abuse victim of a monk from the Austrian Cistercian abbey of Wettingen-Mehrerau. The abbey, located near Bregenz, also includes the pilgrimage church in Birnau and other parishes on the German shore of Lake Constance. In one of the parishes the abuse is to have happened. Zollitsch, according to the ARD magazine with reference to a letter from the Freiburg public prosecutor's office, had in his former office as personnel officer of the Baden archdiocese in 1987 "arranged for" an assignment of the priest on the Birnau, although there had already been indications of sexual abuse by the Cistercian monk since the 1960s. Legal experts consider this simply impossible. Zollitsch, according to the Freiburg canon lawyer Georg Bier, was "never responsible for the pastoral care in the pilgrimage church, neither as personnel officer nor as archbishop". The abbey together with the associated parishes is independent, the employment of personnel is solely a matter of the abbot. Biers' colleague from Tubingen, canon lawyer Richard Puza, expressed a similar opinion. Exceptional case of the exceptional case So-called territorial abbeys, which often existed in the Middle Ages, are the great exception today. According to Bier, there are still a good dozen such exclaves worldwide. And that – as in the case of the 12. The church was founded in Switzerland in the 19th century. The fact that the abbey, which moved to Austria in the nineteenth century, is located in a parish that transcends both states and dioceses, is undoubtedly the exceptional case of the exceptional case. On Thursday morning, Abbot Anselm van der Linde acknowledged in a statement an "inadequate handling" of the order with perpetrators and victims of abuse. At the same time, he regretted that Zollitsch was now "suddenly and completely groundlessly" associated with cases of abuse. The archbishop has "nothing to do" with the events. Anselm stressed that he could not undo the injustice that had been done. At the same time, he appealed to victims to contact state authorities and, "if it is possible for them", to contact him. Investigations against order man run already for a long time The state authorities – in this case the public prosecutor's office in Constance. It has already been investigating the religious for a long time. To the conditions of the investigations senior public prosecutor Christoph Hettenbach did not want to comment on inquiry, since the files lay at present with the police. Meanwhile, the criminal complaint against Zollitsch was forwarded to Lake Constance by the Freiburg public prosecutor's office. According to Hettenbach, no files have been received in Constance so far; accordingly, the Freiburg takeover request could not be processed. Meanwhile, Bier considers the behavior of the Freiburg investigative authority, which had publicly confirmed receipt of the complaint, to be "irritating". At such an early stage, he said, a public prosecutor's office should not go public. However, at present apparently "everyone is afraid to act too late in the case of an allegation of abuse" because something "could stick to oneself". Unverified allegations of abuse, however, are problematic because a person affected is damaged even if it later turns out that everything is fictitious. The archdiocese stressed that the current president of the German Bishops' Conference had only learned of the allegations from the 1960s on which the complaint was based in 2006 and then acted quickly. Months ago, the archdiocese had already announced that it had called in the Cistercian Order and demanded consequences after the accusation became known. The archdiocese therefore speaks of the "recognizable intention to provoke media interest with the sensationally formulated accusation of 'aiding and abetting sexual abuse' against an archbishop.".

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