Rainer Maria Cardinal Woelki © Julia Steinbrecht (KNA)
Clear statement: Cologne Archbishop Rainer Maria Woelki would resign from his post if the abuse study he commissioned proved he was involved in cover-ups.
The Archdiocese of Cologne confirmed on Thursday a report by the "Kolner Stadt-Anzeiger" that the cardinal had said this in November 2018 before the diocesan pastoral council. The study, he said, had the goal of naming those responsible. "Cardinal Woelki is not exempt from this and he will face up to his responsibility and draw consequences if those become necessary," the archdiocese said.
Woelki formerly auxiliary bishop in Cologne
Stadt-Anzeiger quoted a participant in the meeting, according to which the cardinal had stated "in his sometimes characteristic loose manner" that no consideration could be given and that a "complete clarification" was necessary. If it could be proven that it was involved in a cover-up, "the cathedral chapter would have to re-elect". The archdiocese did not confirm the exact wording of the statements to the Catholic News Agency (KNA), but did confirm the content.
Woelki was auxiliary bishop in Cologne from 2003 to 2011 and in that capacity was a member of the archdiocese's personnel conference. In the fall of 2018, now as archbishop of Cologne, he commissioned the expert opinion on the handling of abuse cases by diocese officials from a Munich law firm. In order to preserve independence, Woelki, as the client, is not to learn of the results in advance either.
The for 12. Presentation scheduled for March 2020 was canceled at short notice. The planned naming of former or active decision-makers still had to be legally secured, according to the reasoning at the time.
Suffragan bishops bear no responsibility for personnel management
According to media reports, allegations of cover-ups have so far been directed at the archdiocese's former chief of staff and later vicar general, now Archbishop Stefan Hebe of Hamburg, among others. The latter rejects the accusations and demands that the study may only be published together with a presentation of his point of view. In addition, he points out that he presented each case to the then Archbishop Joachim Meisner and that everyone in the staff conference could have given his advice to the archbishop.
The Archdiocese of Cologne now emphasized in response to a KNA query that suffragan bishops bear no responsibility for personnel management, pastoral staff and the handling or processing of suspected cases of sexualized violence.