Saturday 20th February 2021
Coming to terms with abuse
Woelki: “I blamed me”
The Cologne Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki has admitted mistakes in the processing of abuse offenses and in the crisis communication of the past weeks. “I also blamed myself for that,” the archbishop admitted in a video message. “I’m so sorry about that.” At the same time he assured: “It was and I want to come to terms with it.”
The report has long been ready, but Woelki has kept it under lock and key until now. He cites legal concerns for this. Instead, he has ordered a new report to be published on March 18.
The archbishopric is riddled with cracks, he notes. “I know that many people in our archdiocese and beyond make me personally responsible for it.”
In the past weeks and months, believers have made their irritation clear to him. “You find it difficult to understand why a second independent investigation is needed to uncover the systematic connections between decades of abuse in our archdiocese and to show them in detail.” However, he was convinced that this was necessary because he needed “a certain qualitative and quantitative factual situation”.
The numbers are known”
The Munich law firm that prepared the first report rejects all allegations. Woelki assures in his message: “It was and is my intention to achieve a transparent, consistent clarification of the abuse offenses and their systemic circumstances in our archdiocese – of course also with a view to my own person.”
The figures are known because we have already communicated them on various occasions in the past,” said the criminal lawyer, Professor Björn Gercke, commissioned by the church.
Woelki had previously announced that Gercke had investigated 236 cases from the Archdiocese of Cologne. According to “Spiegel”, this involves the systematic evaluation of files and tens of thousands of pages.
The investigation period goes back to 1975.
What is striking, however, is that the numbers now published are significantly higher than the numbers from the so-called MHG study of the German Bishops’ Conference of 2018. At that time, 135 victims of sexual violence and 87 accused clerics were reported for the Archdiocese of Cologne over a period of 70 years.
Demand for church resignations skyrockets
Gercke gave several reasons for the differences to the MHG study. His report does not only consider clerics, but also non-consecrated employees of the archdiocese. In addition, “a distinction must be made between reports of suspicion and actual (criminal) offenses”.
According to a report by the “Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger”, the Munich report that was withheld comes to similar numbers of victims and accused as Gercke. Woelki’s approach triggered an unprecedented crisis of confidence in the largest German diocese.
The demand for people leaving the church has soared in Cologne that the district court has increased the number of online appointments. However, the denomination of the citizens concerned cannot be read from the appointment bookings