Unveiling the report, Gercke said: “We have encountered a system featuring a lack of responsibility, lack of legal clarity, lack of control, and lack of transparency, which in any case favored secrecy and in which many parties were involved, including those outside the Archdiocese of Cologne.”
“Accordingly, one should not speak of a ‘systematic cover-up’ by responsible persons of the Archdiocese of Cologne, but of a ‘system-related or system-inherent cover-up.’”
Woelki announced that, as a first step, he would “temporarily release” two officials from their duties: Bishop Dominikus Schwaderlapp, a Cologne auxiliary bishop and former vicar general, and Günter Assenmacher, an archdiocesan official.
Gercke’s report identified concerns about both men’s handling of abuse cases and they will remain suspended until the allegations have been clarified.
The archdiocese will hold a second press conference on March 23 at which Woelki will comment in more detail on his reaction to the report, with possible further consequences for officials criticized in the report.
Woelki told CNA Deutsch that he understood the anger over the archdiocese’s response to abuse cases and its decision not to publish the first report.
“I am heartily sorry that we have caused further pain to those affected by the difficult path of coming to terms with sexualized violence in the Archdiocese of Cologne,” he said.
“Unfortunately, we had no alternative to the decision to commission a second expert opinion, because we need a methodologically clean and sustainable basis in order to clearly identify the responsibilities organizationally in our church and to be able to prevent the same mistakes being made in the future.”