Between “tragedy” and “pioneering role

Between 'tragedy' and 'pioneering role

Only wait until Thursday, then the eagerly awaited abuse report for the Archdiocese of Cologne will be published. No wonder that the topic has dominated the ecclesiastical debate in the past few days as well.

Tension is growing in the Catholic Church ahead of the publication of the Cologne report on abuse on Thursday.

The “Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung” published extensive research on an abuse case in which, among others, the current Archbishop of Hamburg, Stefan Hebe, and the auxiliary bishop of Cologne, Dominikus Schwaderlapp, are accused of serious omissions.

Rorig expects results

The German government's abuse commissioner, Johannes Wilhelm Rorig, said on WDR radio that he expects, above all in the interest of those affected, “that cover-ups, denial of abuse and also the prevention of clarification are exposed to the maximum”.

He also said Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki must disclose whether he “really had weighty reasons for withholding the first opinion”. He added that he could only comment on possible personnel consequences after publication of the expert reports.

The chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, Georg Batzing, lamented “decades of institutionally covered-up abuse” in the Catholic Church in a ZDF service. This is a “real catastrophe” and now it is high time “for honesty and decisiveness in dealing with this dark past that is still effective today,” the Limburg bishop said.

Zollner criticizes all attempts at cover-up

In the Catholic weekly newspaper “Die Tagespost” (online), Vatican child protection expert Hans Zollner criticized all attempts to relativize cover-ups of abuse or the transfer of perpetrators in earlier times: Regardless of the respective legal or social situation, abusers should always have been punished severely – if only because of classical moral theology.

Literally, the Jesuit and director of the Vatican Child Protection Center added: “Whoever sexually or otherwise abuses children, adolescents and other charges has at all times and in all places committed a serious crime.” This should have been clear to everyone – “and appropriate penalties and measures would have been inevitable”.

At a meeting of the Diocesan Council of Catholics in the Archdiocese of Berlin, Johanna Beck of the German Bishops' Conference's Advisory Council on Victims of Sexualized Violence called for “relentless naming of perpetrators and cover-ups.”. Whoever wants justice to be done for the victims must clearly show that those responsible will be held to account.

In an article for the “General-Anzeiger,” Bonn-based canon lawyer Norbert Ludecke criticized the Vatican's view that Cologne Archbishop Woelki's investigation of the abuse case surrounding his friend Priest O. did not have to report to Rome. With such a legal understanding, “the allegedly so consistent fight against abuse by John Paul II” would have been “a very bad thing”., Benedict XVI. and Francis exposed as a myth and a fake.”.

Woelki had justified the non-reporting with the then already advanced dementia of the clergyman. If the Vatican accepted this, Ludecke said, it would be violating its own norms. Thus "the principle church protection before child protection is insidiously continued".

Pioneering role of the Catholic Church

Despite all justified criticism of the "Cologne tragedy," the Federal Government Commissioner for Abuse attested to the Catholic Church's overall pioneering role in coming to terms with abuse in Germany. "With regard to a structured independent reappraisal, it is indeed the case that the Catholic Church is in a pioneering role," Rorig said verbatim on WDR.

With the Protestant Church, for example, he is currently still negotiating a corresponding agreement, as he concluded with the Catholic Church in 2020, added Rorig. At the same time, there is still a lot of catching up to do in politics and society to push ahead with the reappraisal in the areas of sports, schools and family.

After months of dispute, lawyers present an abuse report for the Archdiocese of Cologne on Thursday. The team around criminal lawyer Bjorn Gercke has investigated the handling of cases of sexualized violence by the diocese leadership and is to call cover-ups by name.

The investigation of the Munich law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl (WSW), which was first commissioned, is to be made available to affected persons, journalists and interested parties a few days later. Because of "methodological deficiencies" it is so far withheld.

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