Cardinal Woelki suspends officials named in report

18.03.2021 (pek210318-english)
Independent investigation into the handling of sexualised violence in the Archdiocese of Cologne

Cologne. At a press conference this morning, the Cologne-based criminal law experts Prof Björn Gercke and Dr Kerstin Stirner presented the "Independent Investigation into the Handling of Sexualised Violence in the Archdiocese of Cologne" commissioned by Archbishop of Cologne Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki. The report covers the period 1975 to 2018 and examines in detail 236 case files with the aim of identifying in the most concrete manner possible any existing deficits and breaches of law as well as those responsible for them.

In a first response, Cardinal Woelki temporarily suspended the people named in the report: Auxiliary bishop Mgr Dr Dominikus Schwaderlapp and Judicial Vicar Dr Günter Assenmacher. 

As Cardinal Woelki has said several times before the publication of the report, for him, the purpose of the investigation was and is first and foremost to provide clarity for the victims of sexual abuse and – where possible – to do justice. At the end of the lawyers' presentation, Cardinal Woelki was given a copy of the report. The lawyers also gave a copy of the report to Peter Bringmann-Henselder of the Victims' Advisory Council of the Archdiocese of Cologne. Bringmann-Henselder said: "As victims, we have had to wait a long time – far too long – for this important step of clarification. However, I am happy today that at least this first promise has been kept."

After receiving the report, Cardinal Woelki made the following statement on the findings that had been presented: "I am deeply saddened by the cases and processes described by Professor Gercke. Clerics are guilty of having abused people in their care. In many cases, they did so with impunity and – what is worse – the victims of this violence were not taken seriously and protected. That constitutes a cover-up. […] At last, however, a first commitment has been fulfilled, namely to uncover what has happened both in the past and the present. To investigate what was covered up and to name those responsible."

The officials were suspended on the basis of Prof Gercke's summary of the assessments and analyses. In the coming days, personnel discussions will be held to clarify the consequences resulting from the report for the officials named in the report.

During the press conference, Professor Gercke explained the methodology behind and the structure of the report, which is over 800 pages long. He summed up the handling of abuse cases in the Archdiocese of Cologne during the period under consideration as follows: "We encountered a system characterised by a lack of competence, a lack of legal clarity, a lack of monitoring and a lack of transparency that certainly facilitated secrecy and which involved many people, both inside and outside the Archdiocese of Cologne. Accordingly, we should not be speaking of a 'systematic cover-up' by officials in the Archdiocese of Cologne, but rather of a 'systemic cover-up or a cover up that is inherent in the system'."

The members of the Victims' Advisory Council received the report before it was published online. 

Members of the public can now access the full report on the website of the Archdiocese of Cologne:

On 23 March – after the report has been read and analysed – a second press conference will be held. At this second conference, further consequences will be announced, especially regarding further appraisal, intervention and prevention. Cardinal Woelki, who received a copy of the report today, will then, together with his vicar-general Mgr Dr Markus Hofmann, be in a position to make a more detailed statement on the content and consequences of the report. This approach was agreed at the time the report was commissioned in order to prevent conflicts of interest and interference. An invitation to the press conference on 23 March will be sent out separately.

You will find a link to a first short interview with Cardinal Woelki by the Catholic News Agency here: 

Here you will find a photo that you can use for your reporting: 

You get this page also with the shortlink