November 2, 2020
By Derek Scally
Report falls victim to legal claims and a power battle among two church camps
Berlin – Germany’s most influential Catholic diocese stands accused of protecting senior bishops after refusing to publish a report outlining their cover-up of clerical sexual abuse.
Last February Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, archbishop of Cologne and one of Germany’s most senior Catholic figures, promised to publish within a month a report by a Munich law firm granted access to diocesan archives.
The report, he promised, would name figures who “as a result of their decisions and their behaviour could have contributed to abuse: structurally, institutionally or even in a concrete way”.
“Perhaps even I will be criticised,” he said, framing the forthcoming report as proof of church transparency in exploring abuse and cover-up in its ranks.
Two days before a press conference to launch the report in March, however, Cardinal Woelki cancelled the presentation. Seven months on, with the report still under wraps, the Cologne archdiocese has turned on the lawyers responsible, accusing them of failing to complete their task professionally.
In reality the report has fallen victim to legal claims as well as a power battle among two church camps in Cologne: one favours full disclosure, the other prioritises the rights and reputations of church figures.
Looming large in the 350-page report, which examines 15 sample cases, is Archbishop Stefan Hesse of Hamburg. Between 2006 and 2017 he was personnel officer and later general vicar of the archdiocese of Cologne under Cardinal Joachim Meisner.
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