Pope needs to do more, says abuse prevention expert

The Tablet [Market Harborough, England]

January 13, 2022

By Christa Pongratz-Lippitt

Elsewhere in Germany, the investigation of a leading archdiocese’s expense accounts has been halted.

A leading Church expert on the prevention of sexual abuse has criticised the Pope’s response to the abuse crisis.

“From our point of view, that is from the point of view of western-European and Anglosaxon countries, far greater consistency is called for in demanding what laws already permit,” the director of the Institute of Anthropology. Interdisciplinary Studies on Human Dignity and Care (IADC) at the Gregorian in Rome, Fr Hans Zollner SJ, told the German weekly Welt am Sonntag on 2 January. 

According to Zollner, the Pope specifically could be far more decisive, guaranteeing greater legal security and give the victims the right to a place in procedural law in the Vatican, he pointed out.

While Francis belonged to a different generation and other church issues were more important for him, Francis was learning, Zollner said. “He himself says that he has a steep learning curve behind him”, he said and recalled that Francis had admitted making mistakes. 

The IADC, formerly the Centre for Child Protection, was opened in October 2021.  “What must not happen is for us to issue guidelines which then simply land on a book shelf. It is a case of really taking up cases, of allowing victims to come forward and letting them challenge us,” he told Welt am Sonntag. The IADC’s work for the prevention of clerical sexual abuse was of pivotal importance for the Catholic Church’s credibility, he underlined.

Elsewhere in Germany, the investigation of the a leading archdiocese’s expense accounts has been halted after Curial officials requested the diocesan administrator cease the enquiry announced last December. The investigation of the Cologne archdiocesan expense accounts which the Apostolic Administrator of Cologne in Cardinal Woelki’s absence, Bishop Rolf Steinhäuser, announced last year, has been halted at the request of two different Vatican congregations.

On 5 January, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Congregation for Bishops let Bishop Steinhäuser know that the investigations must not begin until Cardinal Woelki returns from his four months leave of absence at the Pope’s wish on 2 March. 

The Vatican’s move to delay the investigations has been widely criticised by the Catholic laity. 

Delaying the investigations for another seven weeks leaves too much scope for speculation, the deputy chairperson of the Cologne archdiocesan council Bettina Heinrichs-Müller told the Kölnische Rundschau.

“It is now certain that Cardinal Woelki will be back with full official powers at the beginning of March and will decide himself which canon lawyers will investigate these pecuniary procedures”, canon lawyer Thomas Schüller of Münster, told KNA.

“These are delaying tactics in order to prevent an independent investigation,” We Are Church commented in a 5 January open letter, accusing the Vatican of filibustering. 

At the beginning of December, Steinhäuser asked the Vatican to look into the Cologne archdiocesan expense accounts which showed that the archdiocese had spent £2.4m on consultants between 2019 and 2021. He himself immediately commissioned two canon lawyers to examine Cardinal Woelki’s expense accounts.The investigation will will now have to wait until Woelki returns on Ash Wednesday.