“No explicit responsibility”

Archdiocesan Vicariate General Cologne © Alexander Foxius (DR)

According to a newspaper report, the head of the ecclesiastical court in the Archdiocese of Cologne, Gunter Assenmacher, violated official duties in dealing with a possible abuse case. The archdiocese of Cologne sees "no explicit responsibility".

Thus a report to the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as well as to the then Archbishop of Cologne, Joachim Meisner, was "omitted in breach of duty," reports the "Zeit" supplement "Christ Welt" (Thursday). The paper refers to a letter from the Munich law firm "Westpfahl Spilker Wastl", which investigated abuse cases on behalf of the Archdiocese of Cologne.

Specifically, it is about a priest who is said to have committed multiple acts of sexual abuse against his underage nieces in the 1990s. The public prosecutor's office in Cologne was already investigating the case in 2010. However, the proceedings were discontinued at the time after the victims withdrew their charges.

Also to a church-legal procedure it did not come according to "Christ world". According to the Munich lawyers, Assenmacher autonomously refused to initiate a preliminary canonical investigation without informing Cardinal Meisner or the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. However, such information is "mandatory," the newspaper quotes the lawyers.

Archdiocese of Cologne: "Omitted in breach of duty"

The Archdiocese of Cologne confirmed to the Catholic News Agency (KNA) on Wednesday that an internal review of the case also showed "that the report to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was omitted in breach of duty". However, "no explicit responsibility" had been established by Assenmacher for this omission.

The case also involves the current Archbishop of Hamburg, Stefan Hebe, who was head of personnel in Cologne in 2010. Last week, the "Bild" newspaper reported that during Hess's term in office, a conversation with the accused priest had been held without protocol. Instead, there were only handwritten notes, which could be destroyed if necessary. Hebe had given his consent to this procedure.

Hebe rejects reproach

Hebe himself rejected this accusation. According to "Christ Welt," his legal adviser argues that in 2011, steps under church law against the accused priest were waived because the alleged victims had exercised their right to refuse to testify in the secular proceedings and also did not want to testify in proceedings under church law.

The newspaper speculates that the memo could contain a confession of the priest. The Archdiocese of Cologne, on the other hand, told the KNA that current findings do not allow this conclusion to be drawn. There is no document available that shows what the accused priest told in a conversation. "First of all, there is no document that documents a confession," it continued. Although a note from November 2010 was known, but this was "predominantly poorly legible".

Woelki prohibited exercise of office

After the internal examination, the current Cologne Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki prohibited the accused clergyman from exercising his priestly ministry in April 2019, as the archdiocese further announced. In addition, the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had been informed, later also about the renewed indictment against the clergyman.

The Archdiocese's intervention office had contacted those affected and again called in the public prosecutor's office. After the allegedly aggrieved parties had this time signaled willingness to testify, the prosecutor's office sued the priest on 31. July again to.

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