The Cologne archdiocese is expected to issue a widely awaited report on church officials’ treatment of past cases of clergy sexual abuse on Thursday.
Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, the archbishop of Cologne, has angered many local Roman Catholics by holding a preliminary report on how local church officials responded when priests were accused of sexual harassment under wraps for months.
The cardinal has raised legal reservations about the study performed by a law firm being released. A new report, written by a different attorney, was scheduled to be published later that day.
According to Germany’s dpa news agency, the lawyer in charge of the new report, Bjoern Gercke, told the media in advance that his investigation concerned more than 300 abuse victims and over 200 individuals suspected of abuse in the Cologne diocese since 1975. The emphasis of the inquiry, he said, wasn’t so much on what the perpetrators did to the victims as it was on whether those in charge of the church — the cardinal, vicar-general, and other church officials — had reacted appropriately to allegations of violence.
Within the German church, there has been a lot of criticism in recent weeks.
Limburg Bishop Georg Baetzing, the president of the German Bishops’ Conference, characterized the crisis management in Cologne as a “disaster” last month, but said the conference lacks “sovereignty” to interfere.
Owing to high demand, a Cologne court confirmed last month that it would raise the number of appointments available for people wishing to officially leave the church from 1,000 to 1,500 beginning in March. In Germany, church members pay a large tax that goes into funding the organizations. They must pay 30 euros ($35) and officially announce their intention to leave the church.
For years, the church in Germany and elsewhere has been plagued by revelations of past sexual harassment.
Between 1946 and 2014, at least 3,677 people were raped by clergy in Germany, according to a church-commissioned study published in 2018. When the violence occurred, more than half of the victims were 13 or younger, and almost a third of them were altar boys.
A new scheme devised by the church to compensate victims of violence went into effect in January. It provides for payments to each survivor of up to 50,000 euros (nearly $60,000). Payments averaged about 5,000 euros under the previous scheme, which had been in effect since 2011.