Reinhard Cardinal Marx (l.) and Bishop Stephan Ackermann (Archive) © Harald Oppitz (KNA)
It is about their tenure in Trier: A victim of sexualized violence and abuse of power by a priest accuses Bishops Reinhard Marx and Stephan Ackermann of insufficient processing and protection of offenders.
Both were as bishops of Trier the abuse allegations only hesitantly and too late investigated, it is said in a contribution published on Tuesday on Deutschlandfunk.
The person concerned, also a bishopric employee, reports under the pseudonym Karin Weibenfels. As an adult she had been sexually abused for years by her superior pastor. When she became pregnant, the priest had urged her to have an abortion against her will.
He had been assisted by another priest. He had also advised her to have an abortion and had absolved the priest of his sins after the sexual assaults, both in confession. The acts are believed to have occurred primarily in the 1980s and 1990s. The woman suffers the consequences to this day and is excused from ministry.
Karin Weibenfels further reports having presented her case to Bishops Marx and later Ackermann in the 2000s. It was only with the help of canon law and later lawyers that the diocese initiated investigations against the accused perpetrator and later against the accused second priest.
According to the woman, the diocese believed the accusations. Both priests had been sanctioned at short notice and were not allowed to celebrate services. Basis was the canonical prohibition to have "positively participated" in an abortion.
Vatican apparently lifted conditions again
According to the Deutschlandfunk report, the Vatican rescinded these conditions after a few months in each case. After an examination of further accusations by the diocese, it was said that other possible crimes were time-barred.
The accused perpetrator lives as a retired priest in the diocese of Trier, the second priest who, according to her, urged the woman to have an abortion during confession, has since died. He served in a senior position in the diocese until his death, without conditions or disciplinary action.
According to the report, the diocese opened investigations against the accused only after asking and urging them to do so. The case stretches from the first communication to the diocese in 1999 to the present and falls within the terms of three bishops: Hermann Josef Spital (1981 to 2001), Reinhard Marx (2002 to 2008) and Stephan Ackermann (since 2009).
Marx now explained on Deutschlandfunk radio that he had not been aware of spiritual abuse of adults at the time. In the meantime, he sees that "the canonical perspective has limits and alone cannot always do justice to the different dimensions of a case".
Ackermann explained, "Karin Weibenfels and her story have accompanied me since I took office. There is hardly any other case in which I have been so pushed to the limits of the law, of the people involved and of my possibilities."At the same time, he stressed that he had made numerous offers of help to the person concerned.
Karin Weibenfels nevertheless hopes for further clarification and has recently turned to the Archdiocese of Cologne, which as a metropolitan diocese is superior to the Diocese of Trier in matters of dispute.