Report on handling of abuse cases in Germany’s Munich archdiocese delayed

The Frauenkirche, the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising The Frauenkirche, the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising. | Diliff via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.5)

A report on the handling of abuse cases in Germany’s Archdiocese of Munich and Freising is unlikely to be published before January 2022.

Westpfahl Spilker Wastl, the law firm compiling the report, announced the delay on Nov. 3, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

The Munich law firm said that the delay was caused by “new findings obtained in the recent past” that required an “intensive review.”

The study’s official title is “Report on the Sexual Abuse of Minors and Vulnerable Adults by Clerics, as well as [other] Employees, in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising from 1945 to 2019.”

The report will cover 1977 to 1982, the period when the future Benedict XVI led the archdiocese, as well as the tenure of Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who has served as archbishop of Munich and Freising since 2007.

The law firm produced a report in 2010 on the archdiocese’s handling of abuse cases that has never been published.

A spokesman for the archdiocese told CNA Deutsch on Nov. 4: “A complete publication of the first report is not planned. The new report covers the period 1945 to 2019.”

Westpfahl Spilker Wastl was previously responsible for compiling a report on the handling of abuse cases in the Archdiocese of Cologne.

In January 2019, the archdiocese commissioned the law firm 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 study, Woelki commissioned Cologne-based criminal law expert Professor Björn Gercke to write a new report, published in March.

Woelki faced a wave of criticism — both in the German media and from local Church representatives — for not publishing the original report.

He is currently taking “a period of spiritual leave,” but will return to lead the archdiocese at the start of Lent 2022.

Cardinal Marx wrote to Pope Francis in May, offering to resign amid the fallout from the clerical abuse crisis in Germany. The pope declined his resignation in June.

Marx is a member of the pope’s Council of Cardinals and the coordinator of the Vatican Council for the Economy. Until last year, he served as the chairman of the German bishops’ conference.

In April, Marx asked the German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier not to bestow the Federal Cross of Merit on him after an outcry among advocates for abuse survivors over the award.

He had been scheduled to receive the Bundesverdienstkreuz, Germany’s only federal decoration, at the Bellevue Palace in Berlin on April 30.

Marx said that he did not want to draw negative attention to other award recipients.

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Peter Bringmann-Henselder, a member of the affected persons’ advisory board of Cologne archdiocese, had urged the president to withhold the honor, citing Marx’s handling of cases when he was bishop of Trier, southwestern Germany, from 2001 to 2007.

The official web portal of the Catholic Church in Germany reported in June that Marx’s actions in Trier would be “comprehensively investigated” by an independent commission on behalf of the diocese that has been led by Bishop Stephan Ackermann since 2009.

The Munich archdiocese, in Bavaria, southern Germany, dates back to 739 A.D. It serves more than 1.7 million Catholics in 758 parishes, out of a total population of 3.8 million people.

Since 1945, the start of the period covered by the report, the archdiocese has been led by Archbishops Michael von Faulhaber, Joseph Wendel, Julius Döpfner, Joseph Ratzinger, Friedrich Wetter, and Reinhard Marx.

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