VATICAN CITY (RNS) – Pope Francis has accepted a request from German Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki for a six-month break from his duties as archbishop of the Diocese of Cologne with the intention to take care of his “grave errors” in dealing with the sexual abuse circumstances.
A press release launched by the Holy See on Friday stated there isn’t any indication that Woelki acted unlawfully in coping with circumstances of sexual abuse, nevertheless it stated that the cardinal failed when it comes to communication and strategy, which contributed to “a disaster of confidence” amongst Catholics that “has disturbed many believers.”
The Archdiocese of Cologne, the most important and richest diocese in Germany, has been on the heart of a disaster within the German church over bishops’ accountability for clerical abuse scandals.
In June, the Vatican commissioned two bishops to research Woelki’s response to an abuse scandal that had begun below his predecessor and to get “a complete image of the advanced pastoral scenario.”
The apostolic visitation, as such investigations are identified, was led by Bishop Johannes van den Hende, the President of the Dutch bishops’ convention, and Cardinal Anders Arborelius of Stockholm.
Francis referred to as Woelki final week to debate the outcomes of the bishops’ report. At Woelki’s request, the pope granted him a “religious break” beginning in mid-October by way of Lent of subsequent yr, in response to the Vatican assertion.
Bishop Rolf Steinhauser Thuburnica will act as substitute till Woelki returns.
In 2018, a research of sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church in Germany and commissioned by the German bishops’ convention discovered that 87 monks had been accused of sexual abuse within the Archdiocese of Cologne.
A second investigation into Cologne’s particular person dioceses was accomplished in 2020, however when Woelki, a conservative amongst German bishops, refused to publish its report, many Germans questioned the cardinal’s perspective towards prosecuting abuse, and a few referred to as for his resignation.
One more research, this one carried out on the behest of the archdiocese by the German legislation agency Gercke und Wollschläger, resulted in March 2021. It discovered that between 1975 and 2018 there have been greater than 300 alleged victims of abuse, largely by clergy. The report additionally discovered a number of circumstances of lack of oversight and mismanagement by Catholic officers within the archdiocese however didn’t discover proof of misconduct by Woelki.
In at this time’s assertion, the Vatican “refuted” accusations suggesting that Woelki had manipulated the results of the diocesan report with the intention to cowl up abuse circumstances and shore up his personal accountability.
At a press convention in March, Woelki refused handy in his resignation whereas admitting to a tradition of “systemic coverup” within the archdiocese. “I acted in a respectful and legally sound approach,” the cardinal stated, earlier than including, “It’s not nearly doing the fitting factor, it’s about doing all the things humanly attainable, and I didn’t do this.”
The German Catholic church is present process a second of deep division as lay Catholics demand larger accountability within the strategy to stopping abuse. It is usually present process a means of transformation referred to as the Synodal Path, through which Catholic bishops and laypeople are discussing the challenges dealing with the church within the nation.
Launched in 2019, the method addresses priestly life, sexuality and morality, energy buildings within the church and the position of girls. The Synodal Path has garnered each reward and criticism for its progressive proposals for LGBTQ inclusion and feminine empowerment.
Woelki has been skeptical in regards to the course of, expressing his fears that it’d result in “a schism” with Rome and the creation of a “German Nationwide Church.”
Sexual abuse has been a driving power within the Synodal Path discussions. Investigations into the Diocese of Hildesheim discovered credible allegations that the late Bishop Heinrich Maria Janssen, praised within the nation for his charitable work, took half in a pedophile ring and sexually abused minors.
Woelki’s missteps have deepened the rift between Catholic trustworthy and the native hierarchy.