The two ‘inspectors’ who will investigate for Pope Francis whether mistakes have been made in the handling of abuse cases in the diocese of Cologne have started their job today. The bishops of Rotterdam and Stockholm are expected to stay for two weeks and then prepare a report for the Pope.
The ‘apostolic visitators’, as the researchers are officially called, were the first to speak with a few abuse victims. Among them Patrick Bauer (51), who was sexually abused for the first time when he was ten by a priest in Bad Godesberg, today a part of Bonn. The cleric assaulted him for years and Bauer is still experiencing the consequences. He struggles with depression and sleep disorders. “I can’t breathe at night because I think my mouth is full,” he told public broadcaster ZDF in March this year.
Bauer reacted with surprise today after the conversation with the two bishops behind closed doors. “I thought it was a very open and committed conversation and asked them why they wanted to speak to us first. The answer was: because you have emailed us and victims are the most important in this process. I find that very commendable,” the fifty-year-old stated in front of the camera of the Daily News, the news of the public broadcaster ARD.
He is one of five former members of the Victim Advisory Council in the diocese of Cologne, the largest in Germany. Each of them had their say on Tuesday about the actions of Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki van Keulen. He is under fire for his actions in abuse cases.
For example, he did not make a first investigation report led by a criminal defense lawyer public because of ‘weak investigative methods’ and subsequently ordered a second investigation led by another criminal law expert. That report, which was made public in March, showed that more than 300 children had been sexually abused in the diocese in recent decades by more than 200 possible suspects. The report exonerated the cardinal but accused a dozen clerics of errors in handling abuse cases.
The Archbishop and Cardinal is now again under fire for his actions at two of the clergy accused in the report. Woelki appointed one of them as deputy dean of the Saint Margareta parish in Düsseldorf in 2017 despite allegations of sexual assault. The other priest, who has since passed away and worked in the same parish, failed to conduct a preliminary ecclesiastical inquiry into allegations of serious sexual abuse when he took office in 2015. The cardinal also failed to report it to Rome, later justifying the turn of events by pointing to the former priest’s “advanced dementia” that prevented him from being questioned.
Abuse victims therefore do not feel taken seriously by Woelki. Bauer: ,,I don’t care who sits in the chair of the Archbishop of Cologne. What I want is genuine trust, real transparency and real dialogue.
Deans of 14 of the 15 branches in the cities and districts within the archdiocese wrote to Cardinal Woelki in late May requesting that he draw “personal consequences” from the abuse scandal and allegations against him. According to the department heads, the crisis of confidence in the archdiocese, with hundreds of Catholics deregistering, has reached a peak and cannot continue like this.
Bishop Hans van den Hende of Rotterdam and his confreres Anders Arborelius of Stockholm must “form a comprehensive picture on the spot of the complex pastoral situation in the Archdiocese of Cologne,” it said in a statement from the diplomatic mission of the Vatican in Berlin at the end of May.
Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki welcomes the inquiry. “I already informed the Holy Father in detail about the situation in our Archdiocese in February and I applaud that he wants to use the apostolic visitation to get his own picture of the independent investigation and its consequences,” he said after the news. about the arrival of the two ‘visitors’.
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