Decision in uncertainty

Decision in uncertainty

Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki © Bert Bostelmann (KNA)

In the debate about the handling of abuse allegations, Cardinal Woelki has admitted possible errors. At ie is the promotion of the priest D. in Dusseldorf, who had sexual contact with a 17-year-old prostitute 20 years ago.

"If I'm honest, I still don't know 100 percent what would be right: to listen to rumors and brand someone more or less for life, or – as happened in this case – to see that he did a good job, repents and is no longer guilty of anything demonstrable, at the risk that the evidence may one day be brought," Woelki said in an interview with the "Rheinische Post" (Monday).

"Was it nevertheless a mistake at the time?"

He said he must be able to rely on the recommendation of his experts, but he bears the responsibility for it. Evidence does not exist in the case until today. "Was it nevertheless a mistake at the time?", Woelki gave to consider. The cardinal had D. Appointed deputy Dusseldorf city dean in 2017 despite allegations of sexual assault. This had sparked fierce criticism.

Woelki also said that an archdiocese is not an investigative agency. "In 2001 we questioned the priest, he admitted his serious mistake. He has shown remorse and undergone a psychological evaluation that certified harmlessness." Further rumors had the pastor "vehemently denied". Woelki asked, "What do you do now as a personnel manager in the decision 16 years later?"

Independent investigation

The cardinal also referred to the principle that applies in a constitutional state, according to which a person is considered innocent until proven otherwise. "Because of this principle of the rule of law, we cannot grant leave on the basis of suspicion," he said, referring to the leave of absence that has since been granted to D. "When there were new findings, we immediately passed them on to the public prosecutor's office. We did nothing during this time, not even a leave of absence, so that the public prosecutor's office could investigate and a possible perpetrator would not be warned. But when the case became public, we released the priest from his duties."

Woelki explained that 20 years ago, different rules would have applied: "At that time, this incident did not have to be reported to Rome because of the age of the teenager. Today – thank God – it has to be reported, even if it was not abuse at the time, according to all that can be proven."He is currently working on a diocesan regulation according to which such cases must also be reported "which do not formally give rise to any initial suspicion under church law". He also said he had launched an "independent investigation with objective criteria that shows where we looked the other way and made mistakes, where there was a cover-up and where we did not care about justice for those affected".

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