“Then everyone can get a picture”

Clear statement: The new expert on the handling of abuse cases by executives of the Archdiocese of Cologne, Bjorn Gercke, is basically in favor of publishing the study of his predecessors.

"Personally, I have no problem at all if my expert opinion is placed next to the Westpfahl expert opinion next year," Cologne criminal lawyer Bjorn Gercke tells the "Zeit" supplement "Christ Welt" (Thursday). "Then everyone can get a picture. If this should be possible in any form under the law of expression, I would welcome this in the sense of transparency."

The Archdiocese of Cologne had announced on Friday that it would not publish an expert opinion commissioned in 2018 by the Munich law firm Westpfahl, Spilker, Wastl. Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, who according to his own statement does not know the expert opinion himself, justified this with technical deficiencies of the investigation and referred to the assessment of Gercke and two other lawyers. The Munich office rejected the criticism; the report could be published at any time.

Publication planned for March 2021 at the latest

Woelki had also sought the approval of the advisory council of victims of sexualized violence for his decision. But now its spokesman Patrick Bauer also spoke out in favor of publication. He was surprised at the meeting of the body by the deliberations about the continuation of the study, he told the portal catholic.de.

Meanwhile, the archdiocese said it would offer the Westpfahl report to the victims' advisory board for its consideration as soon as Gercke's "robust report" was available. The plan is to release it no later than 18. March 2021.

Criticism of demand to name names

Cardinal wants report to specifically name current and former leaders in handling sexual violence cases. Several clerics, including former Cologne personnel chief and current Hamburg Archbishop Stefan Hebe, had raised legal concerns about the Munich-based firm's drafting.

Gercke tells "Christ World": 'We will make this investigation legally watertight'."Before publication, he said, the archdiocese will certainly have the investigation subjected to an evaluation under the law of expression, as it did with the Westphal study. "This is quite common. And I have no problem with that."

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Christina Cherry
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