Rainer Maria Cardinal Woelki © Harald Oppitz (KNA)
A group of priests spoke with Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki about their criticism of the abuse investigation in the Archdiocese of Cologne. The online meeting resulted in different points of view and ended "without a concrete result".
This was communicated on Thursday by the group of 34 priests. For corona reasons, only seven of the priests and, in addition to Woelki, Auxiliary Bishop Dominikus Schwaderlapp and Personnel Director Mike Kolb would have taken part in the meeting on Tuesday. At the end of January, an incendiary letter from the 34 pastors to Woelki had become known.
Cardinal Woelki appeared confident after the conversation. "I am satisfied that we were able to exchange ideas and I can understand the concerns, of the pastors and their congregations. Only in clear dialogue can we make progress. I am confident that we will be able to fulfill our promise of transparency in a timely manner," he said through the press office of the archdiocese.
"Openly conducted conversation"
The pastors now said that in the "openly conducted conversation" they had expressed their incomprehension that those responsible in the archdiocese had stood idly by for too long as countless Christians involved in parishes declared their departure from the church. Recent attempts to take a proactive stance on publicly voiced criticisms of the abuse investigation have come far too late, he said. A great deal of trust had been gambled away as a result.
The priests also criticized the fact that a first report on how the diocese's leadership deals with cases of sexualized violence was withheld due to methodological and legal deficiencies, and that a counter-report was commissioned without the authors of the first study being able to comment on it. The fact that a defendant party is not allowed to comment on the accusations made against it cannot be understood, the clergy said.
According to the priests, it was unprofessional to ask the press for a declaration of secrecy after they were to be granted access to the initial expert opinion. Overall, the archdiocese's communication in recent months had been "disastrous".
"Independent of a legal reappraisal, we expect the amption of moral and systemic responsibility," explained Father Meinrad Funke, co-author of the letter. The honesty of the diocese's leadership and its will to honestly come to terms with the situation is to be measured by the first consequences that are drawn following the publication of the two commissioned expert opinions.
Woelki had cancelled at the end of October the planned publication of an expert opinion by the law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl (WSW). The Cologne criminal lawyer Bjorn Gercke is to be released until 18. March to submit a new investigation. Afterwards, interested persons should also be able to take a look at the WSW expertise.