Catholic youth are calling on Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki to resign for burying a report into clergy sex abuse cover-ups.
– On failure to produce report, “we no longer wish to remain silent”: German Catholic Youth Federation Cologne
The German Catholic Youth Federation (BDKJ) chapter in Cologne issued the request to archbishop Cardinal Woelki in a statement posted on its website November 12, in which members said that after speaking personally with abuse survivors in the Cologne archdiocese “we no longer wish to remain silent”.
Woelki has been under fire ever since on October 30 he decided not to publish the report of an independent legal firm into negligence on the part of Cologne Church officials when dealing with cases of priestly pedophilia, allegedly because of that report’s insecure legal base.
The cardinal commissioned the report in 2018, and had already postponed its original date of publication in March this year.
– “Shameful” that Woelki and vicar general “have once again destroyed the trust” of survivors
In the BDKJ statement Thursday, co-chair Volker Andres said it was “shameful” that Woelki and his vicar general Markus Hofmann “have once again destroyed the trust of many people affected by sexual violence in the Catholic Church”.
The BDKJ denounced that an archdiocesan advisory board of abuse survivors had no input into the report and the decision of whether or not to publish it from the time it was postponed in March until October 29 – one day before Woelki made public his decision to bury it.
The Catholic youth added that by October 29 the Cologne archdiocese had already sought and obtained an alternative legal opinion on the report which revealed the supposed technical deficiencies that Woelki alleged to again postpone its publication.
On the same date, the members of the survivors’ advisory board were also advised of Woelki’s unilateral decision to hire another lawyer to produce another version of the report by March 2021, the BDKJ said.
The group added that both of those impositions of the cardinal’s – the alternative legal opinion and the commissioning of a new lawyer – left the survivors under “massive time and personal pressure” to agree to his decisions.
“Regardless of the final decision not to publish [the report]…, such treatment of those affected is reckless and ruthless, because in this way those affected are again and again seriously injured by Church representatives”, denounced BDKJ Cologne co-chair Annika Jülich.
– No to leaders who turn backs on survivors “to protect the institution of the Church”
The BDKJ Cologne explained that “while a legally-sound report is desirable, it is much more decisive that the facts are finally made public – which mistakes were made in dealing with both the victims of sexual violence and the perpetrators, and who was responsible for them”.
“As representatives of children and young people, we do not want to see anyone in a position of responsibility in the Catholic Church who has shaken the trust of so many and left the victims of sexual violence alone to protect the institution of the Church”, the Catholic youth group added.
It called on Woelki to publish the original report and implement its recommendations. In the Church, “hierarchical power structures must be dismantled and the effective control of power must be implemented at all levels”, BDKJ co-chair Andres insisted.
– Second spokesperson of survivors’ advisory board resigns
The criticisms of the BDKJ are by no means the only problem Woelki is finding he has to deal with after his controversial decision not to publish the independent report into abuse cover-ups in the Cologne archdiocese.
Also on Thursday, a second spokesperson for the archdiocesan survivors’ advisory board, Karl Haucke, resigned his position and also announced his intention to leave the group altogether.
Haucke said he was making those decisions because he felt instrumentalised by Woelki and other officials in the Cologne archdiocese, who justified their decision not to publish the report on the basis of the supposed agreement they had reached with the board to follow that course of action.
Another spokesperson of the survivors’ board, Patrick Bauer, resigned last week for the same reasons as Haucke, who also lamented that with the controversy over the report “I hardly sleep anymore, I have nightmares again, I had to change my medication”.