The Catholic Church is losing another icon: Serious accusations are being made against the "bacon priest" Werenfried von Straaten, although these accusations have been known in the Vatican for the past ten years.
He was a modern mendicant monk. A shining light of the church, a Marian-from integration figure especially of conservative Catholics. But now a crash threatens. There are serious accusations against Werenfried van Straaten (1913-2003), the Dutch religious who became famous as the "bacon priest".
The founder of the international Catholic relief organization "Aid to the Church in Need/Eastern Priests" is said to have sexually harassed a 20-year-old woman in 1973. That reports the "time" supplement "Christ and world" on Wednesday in advance. For this twice a substantial Entschadigungmme of altogether 36.000 euros were paid.
Annual commemoration in Cologne Cathedral canceled
The accusations have been known in the Vatican for ten years, writes "Christ und Welt" further. Between 2009 and 2011, the auxiliary bishop of Paderborn, Manfred Grothe, had been commissioned by Pope Benedict XVI. the relief organization investigated and in 2010 informed the Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy at the Vatican, Cardinal Mauro Piacenza. The accusations: attempted sexual assault, immoderateness in lifestyle, considerable deficits in personnel management, and susceptibility to fascist ideas.
As a result, a beatification process did not get off the ground. Secrecy was the order of the day. For a decade, silence worked. Only recently, the relief organization distanced itself from its founder in an interview with "Christ und Welt". "These massive shortcomings of Father van Straaten's behavior cannot be justified," the organization wrote in a statement to the newspaper.
The annual commemoration of van Straaten's death on 31 December, which has been celebrated for years in Cologne Cathedral, was not made public. January was canceled this year without giving a reason. If you search for the Dutchman on the homepage of "Aid to the Church in Need," you won't find any more appreciations. The Werenfried T-shirts, Werenfried books and Werenfried DVDs that used to be offered offensively have been removed from the online store.
Unconventional ideas caused a stir
It was the plight of refugees in postwar Germany that stirred van Straaten, who was born in Mijdrecht, the Netherlands, in 1913. From his Belgian monastery in Tongerlo, the religious, who actually wanted to become an artist, began soliciting bacon sides from farmers for starving Germans. A highly unpopular endeavor at the time, which even bishops disagreed with.
Again and again, van Straaten developed unconventional ideas: In destroyed Germany, he equipped semi-trucks with a chapel, confessional and living quarters for missionaries. At the beginning of the 1950s, 35 chapel vans rolled through the Federal Republic of Germany. Father also founded the Order of Builders in 1953: Volunteers helped refugee families build their own homes. 1954 the "Spiegel" brought his face as cover picture. He was similarly unconventional in his work in Brazil and in post-Soviet Russia. There, his relief organization financed the construction of "floating churches" that sailed to remote communities via the Amazon, Don and Volga rivers.
After the fall of communism, contacts with the Orthodox Church
Van Straaten paid special attention to Christians in Eastern Europe, Russia and Cuba: during the communist era, he smuggled money, aid supplies and Bibles to the East, and was known as the "last general of the Cold War". After 1990 he worked on his vision: the rapprochement of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.
Also at the request of Pope John Paul II. In 1994, Werenfried made an offer of help to the Orthodox Church and established contacts with numerous bishops. The initial euphoria, however, faded: relations between the Vatican and Orthodoxy were too strained.
Relief organization with a decidedly conservative approach
"The Church in Need, a foundation under papal law since 2011, continues to be committed above all to spreading the faith and to persecuted Christians. In 2019, 111.2 million euros were invested in projects worldwide. The aid organization follows an emphatically conservative approach: Christianity is also seen as threatened by liberalism in Western democracies. "Church in Need" has become a platform for many who see themselves as upright fighters against the spirit of the times.
The accusations against the founder figure, who had long been so highly revered, are a heavy blow to "Kirche in Not" (Church in Need). For the Catholic Church in Germany, a second once-popular founding figure is losing luster: accusations of abuse of power and sexual assault have also been made against Schoenstatt founder Father Joseph Kentenich (1885-1968) in recent months.