According to information from the "Süddeutsche Zeitung", the public prosecutor's office has made representations to the Catholic Archdiocese of Munich and Freising with a search warrant. The action is said to be related to the abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. The Archdiocese declined to comment on Sunday's request. The investigations were not directed against Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the newspaper writes.
"As already known, the Munich I public prosecutor's office is examining the more than 40 cases reported by the Westpfahl Spilker Wastl law firm at the beginning of August 2021 in which (...) there could be misconduct by church leaders," said the Justice Department spokeswoman Anne Leiding. "As usual, we cannot provide any information on ongoing investigations, but we will probably approach the media with information once the investigations have been concluded."
In January 2022, the Westpfahl Spilker Wastl (WSW) law firm published a sensational report on behalf of the archdiocese. The study assumes at least 497 victims and 235 alleged perpetrators - and from a much larger number of unreported cases. According to "SZ", the action by the public prosecutor's office on February 16 was about a clergyman who has since died and whose actions date back to the 1960s.
It was "the first and long overdue search by a public prosecutor's office with a judicial search warrant," said canon lawyer Thomas Schüller of the German Press Agency and spoke of a "turning point in the relationship between state judiciary and the churches". Schüller: "Finally the constitutional state is showing its teeth to the Catholic Church and thus also to the Protestant Church."
The judiciary - especially in Bavaria - had been repeatedly criticized for leaving the church to deal with the abuse scandal by itself, not intervening and thus enabling cover-ups. Minister of Justice Georg Eisenreich (CSU) spoke out in favor of an independent contact point for those affected in December in the state parliament and emphasized that church reports only play a very minor role in the prosecution of criminal offenses.
Even if the Archdiocese has always emphasized that it works with the public prosecutor's office and has transmitted all relevant documents, and even if, according to "SZ", nothing worth mentioning was found in the action, Schüller believes that it has great symbolic value: "The judiciary in the The Free State of Bavaria is showing all federal states how to do it and is demonstrating that the closed season for the churches is over when serious sexual offenses are suspected. The churches are not a state within a state, have no special rights and must be treated like everyone else," he said.