Misconduct of leading diocesan officials?

Misconduct of leading diocesan officials?

Symbol image files © Aleksandra Nigmatulina (shutterstock)

For the first time in Germany, an independent and comprehensive study on possible misconduct by leading diocesan officials in dealing with abuse cases is published in Cologne. Cardinal Woelki himself had commissioned the study.

The Munich law firm "Westpfahl Spilker Wastl" will present the results of its approximately one and a half years of research in the personnel files and other documents of the archdiocese in a press conference on Thursday of next week. As the archdiocese further announced, Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki and other responsible persons will also learn about the results for the first time at the press conference. This is part of the independence of the new study.

135 affected persons and 87 accused persons in Cologne

The survey follows up on the abuse study presented by the bishops' conference in the fall of 2018. Thereafter, church records from 1946 to 2014 found evidence of nationwide 3.677 affected persons of sexual assaults and on approximately 1.670 accused priests, deacons and religious.

For Cologne, the investigation recorded 135 people affected and 87 accused. Woelki then commissioned the further expertise to uncover mistakes by those responsible as well as systemic deficits. Lawyers should also check whether state and church law has been violated in the process.

Cologne's vicar general Markus Hofmann had announced that the office would name names. Recommendations are also expected for further handling of cases of sexualized violence. If personal guilt emerges, he can understand calls for resignations, Hofmann said. But it should be differentiated. In cases that, from today's perspective, had been handled incorrectly, there could have been no culpable action, even according to the state of knowledge at the time.

Investigations go back to Cardinal Frings' time in office

The period under investigation goes back to the tenures of Cologne Cardinals Josef Frings (1887-1978), Joseph Hoffner (1906-1987) and Joachim Meisner (1933-2017). The respective vicars general as heads of church administration and the heads of personnel, including Norbert Feldhoff, will also be put to the test.

But also the work of his successors, the current Auxiliary Bishop of Cologne Dominikus Schwaderlapp and the Archbishop of Hamburg Stefan Hebe, are the subject of the study. On behalf of the diocese of Munster, the university there has launched a similar study. First interim results to be presented Wednesday evening.

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