A controversial pastor promoted by Cologne Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki has been acquitted of allegations of abuse in a canonical procedure. The Archdiocese of Cologne announced on Thursday that the ban on the exercise of priestly services had been lifted. However, he will not return to his previous managerial position and, for example, may no longer work in child and youth work. The pastor is a key figure in Woelki's press law proceedings against the Axel Springer publishing house and a "Bild" reporter.
According to the "Rheinische Post" and "Bild", the pastor had been accused of abuse of minors. According to the Archdiocese, after sexual contact with an underage prostitute at Cologne Central Station was reported in 2001 in 2001, new reports were received: those affected reported "incidents" from the years 1993 to 1998. However, the archdiocese did not name which specific allegations were negotiated in the so-called canon law administrative penal proceedings. The Düsseldorf public prosecutor had previously examined the allegations, but discontinued the proceedings due to the statute of limitations.
The canonical proceedings now came to the conclusion that the pastor should be acquitted "for factual and legal reasons". The case at Cologne Central Station in 2001 had already been punished by Cardinal Joachim Meisner and was therefore not considered again.
"I can well understand that many people, especially in Pastor D.'s previous communities, were and are irritated, unsettled and also outraged by the recent reporting," said Cologne Vicar General Guido Assmann in a statement from the Archdiocese . "But: Church administrative penal proceedings are also based - analogous to state law - on a burden of proof and compliance with the applicable legal bases."
The pastor was on leave until the allegations were clarified. After the acquittal, according to the Archdiocese, the ban on the exercise of priestly services was lifted. For the time being, however, the pastor will remain released from working as a priest in the archdiocese - "for other tasks to be determined". At Woelki's request, he gave up his position as leading pastor in Düsseldorf and will not return there. In addition, "in the interests of prevention" conditions were issued: The man may no longer be employed in child and youth work, in pastoral care and in managerial responsibility.
Woelki is currently defending himself in legal proceedings against a report by the "Bild" newspaper about the promotion of the pastor to deputy Düsseldorf city dean in 2017. According to Woelki, the newspaper falsely claimed that he knew the pastor's personal file when he was appointed and that I knew about the police warning. A Springer spokesman said the reporting was considered legal. It is regrettable when bishops instrumentalize the court process at the expense of press freedom in order to prevent abuse investigations.