CNA Staff, Jan 8, 2021 / 02:30 am
German media have criticized the Archdiocese of Cologne for offering to provide a “background briefing” to journalists about an unpublished report into clerical sex abuse on condition that they signed a confidentiality form.
Journalists from several media organizations reported that they had refused to sign the form and walked out of the meeting on Jan. 5, which was called to explain issues regarding the report’s methodology.
The archdiocese claimed that the non-disclosure requirement sought to protect the identities of the people referred to in the report. But journalists balked at the suggestion, with one national newspaper citing “a deep-seated distrust” in the wake of recent developments between the diocese and media.
The form would have required journalists not to mention any sexual abuse described in the report, any named perpetrators or people responsible for handling allegations of abuse, as well as any recommendations by the independent report’s authors.
Cologne archdiocese had initially commissioned the Munich law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl to lead an independent investigation into the handling of sex abuse cases. But it decided not to publish the firm’s report, citing what it called “serious methodological deficiencies.”
The decision was widely criticized by journalists and has led to sustained negative media coverage.
A second independent investigation is currently underway in the archdiocese. It is expected to publish its results on March 18.
Pressure is mounting after a Cologne newspaper reported on Jan. 5 that the public broadcaster WDR would broadcast an Epiphany Mass with Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki from Cologne Cathedral on Wednesday “despite considerable concerns about the unresolved cover-up allegations” against the cardinal.