In January 2019, the archdiocese commissioned Westpfahl Spilker Wastl to examine relevant personnel files from 1975 onwards to determine “which personal, systemic or structural deficits were responsible in the past for incidents of sexual abuse being covered up or not being punished consistently.”
After lawyers advising the archdiocese raised concerns about “methodological deficiencies” in the law firm’s study, Woelki commissioned Cologne-based criminal law expert Professor Björn Gercke to write a new report.
The 800-page Gercke Report was published in March. It covers the period from 1975 to 2018 and examines 236 files in detail with the aim of identifying failures and violations of the law, as well as those responsible for them.
Responding to the report, Woelki announced that he would “temporarily release” two officials from their duties: Bishop Schwaderlapp and Günter Assenmacher, an archdiocesan official.
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.”