Publicly accessible

Publicly accessible

Symbolic image: Documents on a desk © JARIRIYAWAT (shutterstock)

The special report on a clergyman twice convicted of abuse, previously withheld by the Archdiocese of Cologne, is now publicly available. A newspaper posted the expert opinion on its homepage.

The investigation, which was already presented in August of last year, is part of an overall report by the Munich-based law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl (WSW), whose publication the archdiocese canceled at the end of October due to "methodological deficiencies". The Cologne criminal lawyer Bjorn Gercke is to be elected to 18. March to present a new investigation.

The report, which can now be read in the "Kolner Stadt-Anzeiger," accuses the late Cologne Cardinals Joseph Hoffner (1906-1987) and Joachim Meisner (1933-2017), as well as Munster Bishop Heinrich Tenhumberg (1915-1975), of having "in breach of duty" failed to take legal action under church law against the now 87-year-old clergyman and of having reinstated him in pastoral care despite knowledge of his sexual assaults.

Accusations also affect the ex-vicars general Peter Nettekoven (1914-1975) and Norbert Feldhoff (81); the latter, according to the "Stadt-Anzeiger", does not want to comment on this at present. The experts accuse the former head of personnel in Cologne and now Archbishop Stefan Hebe of Hamburg of not forwarding a suspected case against the clergyman, reported in 2008, to the person responsible for it in the Archdiocese of Cologne. Hebe rejects the accusations.

A. Was a priest of the Archdiocese of Cologne and had been active in Cologne and then Essen-Kettwig since 1960 before being sentenced to prison in 1972 for "continued fornication with children and addicts". He was then assigned to the diocese of Munster from 1973 until he received a suspended sentence in 1988 for again sexually assaulting minors.

In 1989, A. to return to Cologne as a chaplain for the elderly. He was then active as a retired chaplain in the Bochum-Wattenscheid diocese of Essen from 2002 to 2015. In 2019, Cologne Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki banned him from priestly services. Meanwhile, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Vatican has begun an ecclesiastical criminal trial against the clergyman, who now lives in a nursing home.

Bishop Overbeck admits mistakes

Woelki last week called the handling of the case a "decades-long string of serious mistakes". He expressed particular incomprehension about the fact that Rev. A. reassigned to chaplaincy for the elderly in 1989 and that the "course of suspension begun at that time was abandoned for completely inexplicable reasons". At the time, Meisner and Feldhoff were at the head of the archdiocese, but Woelki does not name them.

Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck of Essen also acknowledged mistakes made by officials in his diocese in handling the case. He also said he was personally at fault: After he had learned of the case in 2010 shortly after taking office in Essen, he had not let himself get the personnel file.

The diocese of Munster, which along with the diocese of Essen had also commissioned the WSW special report, pleaded for publication of the investigation. The Archdiocese of Cologne rejects this and refers to the new investigation mandate.

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