Following the report’s publication, Woelki announced that 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.
Speaking at the press conference on March 23, Woelki said it was necessary to introduce a canonical reform eliminating contradictions between the guidelines of the German bishops’ conference and canon law, and to change a canonical practice which means that abuse cases are sometimes viewed in Church law principally as a breach of the vow of celibacy.
He also announced that management staff would be given further training, especially in the handling of sexualized violence. An information reporting system recommended by Gercke will also be set up. This system will allow anyone who wants to provide information to do so anonymously.
Woelki stressed that “the victims’ perspective must guide our actions.”
He added that he was available to meet victims in person and invited them to contact him.
Asked by reporters if he intended to resign, Woelki said: “To simply accept moral responsibility and go -- to protect the standing of the episcopate and the Church -- would be too easy and is, in my view, wrong.”
“I will accept and assume moral responsibility. Now and in the future, I will do everything within my power to prevent such mistakes from happening again.”