With a letter, Osnabruck Bishop Bode informed about abuse cases. It is about a now retired priest. The acts are statute-barred, he says, and there will be no further investigations.
Bishop Franz-Josef Bode had imposed several sanctions on the now 85-year-old clergyman: Any form of pastoral care was forbidden to him, as well as the public celebration of church services. He was not allowed to act as a representative of the church, was not allowed to approach the congregation and was not buried there in church. Bode made the incidents public in a letter that was read out in Merzen over the weekend. At the same time, he called on other possible victims to come forward.
After there had been rumors again and again in the past, witnesses had contacted him for the first time at the end of 2017 with concrete accusations against the former pastor, the bishop wrote. After intensive discussions – also with the independent contact persons for victims – further persons had accused the clergyman of sexual abuse. All accusations had been forwarded to the public prosecutor's office. The latter considers the acts to be punishable, but they are time-barred, which is why there is no investigation.
After Bode took office in 1995, the first rumors arose
Bode reported that he first heard rumors about the Merzen pastor some time after he took office as bishop of Osnabruck in 1995. However, there were no reliable statements that could have led to charges being filed. The accused has always denied the allegations. Nevertheless he had transferred it 1997 into the premature retirement, so Bode.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome has also been informed of the allegations against the priest, the diocese reported further. This considers the clergyman guilty, especially since he had admitted the accusations in the meantime. However, she refrains from an ecclesiastical trial due to his age and his failing health. Instead, she had asked the local bishop to take disciplinary action.
Penitential service by proxy
Already after the abuse scandal in the German Catholic Church became known in 2010, Bode had asked for an apology on behalf of the abuse cases in his diocese in a penitential service in the cathedral. In the weekend letter, he again acknowledged "serious mistakes" by the church. As a bishop he would have to "take responsibility for this guilt. I already did that publicly in 2010, and I'm doing it again now," Bode said.
As part of the study on sexual abuse presented by the German bishops in September, church files from 1946 to 2014 contained evidence of nationwide 3.677 victims of sexual assault and on around 1.670 accused priests, deacons and religious found. The diocese of Osnabruck recorded at least 68 affected persons and 35 accused persons.