After publication of the abuse report for the Aachen diocese, Bishop Helmut Dieser called on his predecessor to make a "sign of repentance". In addition, he asked to refrain from taking legal action against the report.
Former Bishop Heinrich Mussinghoff (80) and also his former vicar general Manfred von Holtum (76) should begin a "personal process of self-reflection" about their handling of abuse cases, Dieser said Monday in a video press conference. He appealed to former diocesan leaders to refrain from legal action against the assessment and to take the perspective of the victims.
"Undeserved leniency" toward suspects and convicts
The expert opinion of the Munich law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl (WSW), presented on Thursday, attests to Mussinghoff, von Holtum and already deceased former responsible persons to have been oriented to the protection of the perpetrators and not to the care for the victims. Mussinghoff and von Holtum had shown an "undeserved leniency" towards suspected and convicted clergymen and had often reinstated them in pastoral care.
Before the presentation of the Aachen report, the two clergymen had pointed out that it should not be published for reasons of personal protection. Mussinghoff's lawyer rejected the "sweeping accusation" that he did not care about the victims in his statement for the expert report. If the 2010 Bishops' Conference guidelines for abuse cases had been in place before, there would have been a different way of dealing with victims. Mussinghoff led the diocese from 1995 to 2015.
According to this one, it is not about devaluing the life achievement of Mussinghoff or von Holtum. In view of the abuse cases, they should acknowledge their responsibility "in the systemic whole". This would be "painful", but could help victims, whose perspective is now at stake. The latter had met Mussinghoff on Saturday according to his own statements.
Establish independent commission
The latter called the expert opinion, which is supposed to clarify cover-ups of decision-makers in the period from 1965 to 2019, only a "first step in coming to terms with the situation". He announced the establishment of an independent commission to deal with the abuse cases with experts from science and the judiciary, among others. This would also correspond to the agreement between the German Bishops' Conference and the Federal Government Commissioner for Abuse. He also wants to encourage those affected to form an advisory board that will work with the diocese in coming to terms with the situation.
According to Dieser, the payments to the victims for the recognition of suffering are not made from church tax funds. The money should come from a pot into which bishops, priests and other voluntary donors pay. Those particularly responsible should pay an "appropriate fine," said Vicar General Andreas Frick.
Human resources director Margherita Onorato-Simonis says employees with allegations of sexual violence were previously sent away by officials and sworn to silence. Today, every suspicious case is investigated, she ared. She also announced that record keeping would be brought up to modern standards. The experts had found incomplete and sanitized documents.