Diocese was not “proactive” enough

Diocese was not 'proactive' enough

The Bishop of Trier, Stephan Ackermann, has admitted mistakes in dealing with information about a clergyman suspected of abuse. He regrets not having acted faster and more clearly enough, Ackermann said.

During a visit to the parish community of Freisen-Oberkirchen, Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier admitted mistakes in dealing with tips about a clergyman suspected of abuse. "I regret that we have not acted faster and clearer enough," Ackermann said, according to a statement Tuesday from the episcopal press office.

The diocese should have acted "more proactively and decisively" when the first information about the former priest of Freisen in the Saarland district of Sankt Wendel came to light in 2006.

At the same time, he recalled that in such proceedings it is always necessary to protect the personal rights of all those concerned. "This especially includes due discretion, which is not infrequently perceived by the public as a lack of transparency." The clergyman denies the accusations made against him.

Preliminary investigation under church law also incriminates Parish Community

Although the alleged cases of abuse no longer offer the judiciary the possibility of prosecution, they can be punished according to church law. In January, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had therefore decided that proceedings should be brought against the man at the ecclesiastical court of the Archdiocese of Cologne.

The bishop emphasized that he was aware of how much the preliminary canonical investigation was burdening the parish community. Contrary to rumors to the contrary, the clergyman suspected of abuse had not been "bullied away". "Rather, the behavior of the former priest of Freisen itself led to the situation of leave of absence, retirement and finally also to the ban on the public exercise of priestly ministry."

Public prosecutor's office had to discontinue investigations

In September, the diocese had completed a preliminary investigation and forwarded to Rome. According to this, the suspicion of sexual abuse by the retired 63-year-old was corroborated in several cases. The priest is prohibited from publicly celebrating church services and exercising his ministry.

The public prosecutor's office had conducted investigations against the priest in 2006, 2013 and 2016, but these were discontinued due to lack of evidence of the crime or the statute of limitations. Ackermann is also a commissioner of the German Bishops' Conference for questions of sexual abuse.

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Christina Cherry
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