“Procedures transparent and verifiable”

In the case of Priest Jansen, who was placed on leave over abuse allegations, Cologne Cardinal Woelki defended the archdiocese's action. In the newspaper interview, he rejected accusations that the priest was being punished.

The archdiocese had suspended 73-year-old pastor Winfried Jansen from his pastoral duties in early February over allegations of "sexual boundary violations" in the 1970s. Cardinal Woelki told the "Kolner Stadt-Anzeiger" that accusations that the archdiocese wanted to finish Jansen off with this are "completely abstruse". "We have examined very carefully and calmly," said Woelki.

The procedure would apply the bishop's guidelines for dealing with sexual abuse. It is therefore "transparent and verifiable," Woelki stressed. Among other things, the priest is accused of sexually violating the boundaries of a then nine-year-old girl in the early 1970s.

Don't add to the burden on victims

Woelki pointed out that since then more victims had come forward because of sexual border violations. The suspended priest also realizes in the meantime that he "did not behave correctly". The archbishop stressed that for him it was crucial that those responsible for the diocese had acted "to the best of their knowledge and conscience".

"We could not disclose everything we know about what happened at that time out of consideration for the victims. That might have contributed to a greater understanding by the community of what we were doing. But it would have increased the burden for the victims, which the public attention alone means for them," Woelki said.

Sharp criticism of the archdiocese

Therefore, the archbishop said, he must "endure being accused of defamation or character assassination, for example.". Several criminal charges were filed with the public prosecutor's office against him as well as against the archdiocese's press spokesman, Christoph Heckeley, and Vicar General Stefan Hebe.

In the parish in Erftstadt, many parishioners had backed the accused clergyman and voiced partly sharp criticism of the archbishopric. Woelki announced that the auxiliary bishop responsible for the region, Manfred Melzer, would travel to Erftstadt twice in March and April. The accused priest has been relieved of his duties until the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican has ruled on his case.

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