German archbishop under fire over clergy sex abuse report

BERLIN (AP) — The head of the German Bishops’ Conference has criticized the handling by one of the country’s most prominent Roman Catholic archbishops of a report on past child sexual abuse by clergy.

Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, the archbishop of Cologne, faces mounting discontent in his diocese over his decision to keep under wraps a study he commissioned on how local church officials reacted when priests were accused of sexual abuse. Woelki has cited legal concerns about publishing the study conducted by a law firm.

The head of the national bishops’ conference, Limburg Bishop Georg Baetzing, criticized Woelki at a news conference on Thursday.

German news agency dpa quoted Baetzing as saying the “crisis that has arisen because the report is not now public was not well-managed, from my point of view.”

The law firm that prepared report has offered to publish the document on its website and to take sole responsibility for it, but the diocese has rejected that idea.

Woelki has drawn fierce criticism from Catholics in Cologne. The local diocesan council called last month for “full transparency” and said the confidence of the area’s Catholic faithful in church leaders had been damaged.

“After years of secrecy and denial, people in our diocese finally expect plain talk and concrete steps of responsibility,” the council said. “That is always possible. And it is high time.”

Woelki said Thursday he was “painfully aware that confidence had been lost” and acknowledged that he had made mistakes.

He pointed to the planned March 18 publication of a new report he also commissioned, and said that “after that, those affected and then everyone who is interested will get an insight into the first report.”

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