“Be surprised”

The new expert opinion on the processing of abuse in the Archdiocese of Cologne should "name names of responsible persons and also systemic causes" and that "without compromise within the framework of what is legally possible," according to lawyer Bjorn Gercke.

This was promised by Cologne lawyer Bjorn Gercke in an interview for the "Kolnische Rundschau" and Bonn's "General-Anzeiger". Gercke wants to be released by the 18. March to present a new expert opinion commissioned from him by Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki.

Woelki is under public prere for not releasing for publication an initial investigation commissioned from Munich law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl (WSW) into how current and former diocesan leaders handled cases of sexualized violence. In doing so, he refers to other lawyers, according to whose assessment the paper has "methodological flaws".

On the home stretch

Gercke explained that the evaluation and analysis of the very extensive file material had been completed, as well as the questioning of all potentially responsible persons and other respondents: "We are now in the middle of the phase of legal evaluation, so we are on the home stretch." His expert opinion takes up all the cases from the WSW investigation and even goes far beyond that with many additional cases. In terms of content, however, he no longer wanted to comment on the work of WSW and the criticism of it.

The lawyer added that his report should in any case be a "court-proof work": "We are relaxed about possible legal attacks by people who are named by us and who do not like our assessment."

In response to criticism of a possible "narrowing to legal questions," Gercke said lawyers could and should only answer legal questions. But he is also supported by the two canon lawyers Helmut Pree and Stefan Korta: "I think the legal assessment can only be part of the process of coming to terms with the abuse scandal. There are also other approaches – such as a historical or social science – with equal justification."

"Let yourself be surprised"

In all these approaches, he said, there is no "better" or "worse". They provided different answers to different questions: "I am convinced that our expert opinion does not and must not lead to drawing a line under the handling of abuse in the Archdiocese of Cologne."

With the expression-legal questions, so Gercke, one stands in the constant exchange with the lawyers, who were assigned by the archbishopric in this connection: "I am convinced that we present an expert's assessment, which is in this respect unassailable. That does not mean of course that responsible persons will not defend themselves against it. But I have confidence in my colleagues in the law of expression that we are on safe ground there."

With regard to expert opinions for Aachen, where only the names of bishops and vicars general were mentioned, and for Berlin, where a large part with names was not published, the jurist declared: "We will go further. Let us surprise you."

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