Catholic women have protested Archbishop of Cologne Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki’s refusal to publish a report on Church sex abuse and cover-ups.
– “It is intolerable for us that no responsibility is taken”
“We cannot understand the reasons why this report is not published”, Maria Mesrian of the Catholic women’s rights movement ‘Maria 2.0’ told the German Catholic News Agency (KNA) in Cologne November 6.
Mesrian was speaking on the sidelines of a demonstration the women of Maria 2.0 organised Friday and over the weekend after Woelki backpedalled at the end of October on a promise to publish a report by law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl (WSW) into possible negligence by Cologne archdiocesan officials in covering up cases of Church sex abuse and protecting perpetrators.
Woelki justified his move arguing that other lawyers had found technical and methodological defects in the WSW investigation, something which WSW denies. The cardinal has since commissioned another law firm to draw up another report into abuse cover-ups in the archdiocese which is slated to be published by March 2021 at the latest.
But Mesrian from Maria 2.0 said she could not understand Woelki’s decision, given that the Archdiocese of Cologne had agreed to WSW’s design for the report and that the law firm had fulfilled its mandate. “It is intolerable for us that no responsibility is taken”, Mesrian denounced.
– Admitting personal guilt “does not require an expert opinion”
Around a dozen members of Maria 2.0 drove in a minibus to the Cologne cathedral Friday, where they converted their vehicle into a “mobile confessional” and invited archdiocesan officials to confess their guilt to them.
Under the slogan “Out with the report”, Maria 2.0 also drove their minivan on Saturday and Sunday to Woelki’s office and residence.
Along with the publication of the WSW report, the protesters also demanded that Woelki and his colleagues admit their personal failings in dealing with the scourge of priestly pedophilia. Admitting guilt “does not require an expert opinion”, Mesrian recalled, adding: “Taking responsibility – that is important to restore credibility… if that is still possible”.
The Cologne archdiocesan office limited itself to saying that it had “taken note of the announcement” of the Maria 2.0 protests.
– Cardinal “does not expect any leniency” with new report, would resign if implicated
The lawyer who is taking charge of the new Cologne Church sex abuse investigation, Björn Gercke, announced last week that his new report “will be uncomfortable for the archdiocese”. For his part, Cardinal Woelki said: “I do not expect any leniency – on the contrary”.
Cardinal Woelki has previously said that he would resign if the WSW and now Gercke report implicated him personally in any abuse cover-ups.
The report will 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”, Woelki explained in February, one month before the cardinal first postponed the report’s publication over confidentiality concerns.
That desire to name complicit parties “does not exempt Cardinal Woelki, and he would face up to his responsibility and accept the consequences” if he were found to have been involved, the archdiocese confirmed last week.
Along with Cardinal Woelki, also in the spotlight regarding the 350-page-report is former vicar general of Cologne and now Archbishop of Hamburg, Stefan Hesse, who has been accused of showing a “lack of victim care, and not just once”. Hesse has vehemently denied those claims.
In the meantime in Cologne, clerical abuse survivors have also strongly criticised Woelki’s handling of the report, and the spokesman for an archdiocesan victims’ association has resigned after initially backing the cardinal’s decision not to publish the document but later walking back that support.
Edit 10/11 12:55 CET of last paragraph