You are here

The »Tireless Examination« of the Abuse Scandal

Action campaign in front of Cologne Cathedral illustrates why the state must finally act


Photo: Maximilian Steinhaus (gbs)

In connection with the presentation of the second expert report on sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Cologne, the "Aktionsbündnis Betroffeneninitiativen" and the Giordano Bruno Foundation (gbs) are again demonstrating in front of the Cologne Cathedral. The protest from 17 to 19 March aims to prevent public pressure from subsiding. In addition, the gbs seeks to provide "administrative assistance" so that the overwhelmed church resignation offices can do their job. 

After the attention-grabbing protest campaign with the "Eichelbischof" 3 weeks ago, the organizers are once again bringing a provocative sculpture to Cologne's Domplatte: The "Hängemattenbischof" ("hammock bishop") by the Düsseldorf-based carnival float maker Jacques Tilly is grinning contentedly in his golden bunk, which is attached to two crosses that bend so much under the weight of the idle official that they are in danger of breaking completely. 

Matthias Katsch from Eckiger Tisch e.V. explains why the organizers are demonstrating once again in Cologne after such a short time: "We want to prevent public pressure from weakening after the publication of the second report. All of Germany is looking at Cologne, and the church will pat itself on the back afterwards and emphasize that they are doing something. But the reports are not part of the solution, they are part of the problem. In several other dioceses expert opinions have also been compiled. Some of them, however, are blacked out, there are still no resignations of clerics and, above all, the victims are not helped by this alone." 

"After so many years of concealment," says Katsch, "we no longer trust the churches to truly make all files accessible to the experts. Archbishop Woelki's announcement that he will release persons named in the report from their duties if 'necessary' and even then only 'temporarily' suggests that he will only act if public pressure is great enough. In an online petition, our 'Aktionsbündnis Betroffeneninitiativen' therefore demands, among other things, the appointment of an independent truth and justice commission by the Bundestag and the establishment of a victims' recovery organization."

The failure of the state

David Farago of the Giordano Bruno Foundation also holds public prosecutors accountable and says with regard to the sculpture of the "Hängemattenbishof": "Technically, a public prosecutor should lie next to the bishop. It is unacceptable that private experts shoulder the tasks of the investigating authorities. At least since the so-called MHG study from 2018, the public prosecutors' offices throughout Germany have been aware that evidence of crimes that are not yet time-barred can be found in the church archives. Nevertheless, not a single church archive was searched by the public prosecutors themselves." 

This is not contradicted by the fact that last week the public prosecutor's office in Cologne cited legal reasons for not being allowed to open an investigation against Archbishop Rainer Maria Woelki: "As with all other employers", it was said, supposedly "even an archbishop" does not have to reveal "things" about his employees. This argument, however, as gbs board spokesman Michael Schmidt-Salomon explains, "fails to recognize that a bishop is not an ordinary employer, but a representative of a 'corporation under public law', which, according to prevailing legal opinion, entails an 'increased responsibility' as well as the 'maintenance of an appropriate degree of diligence, objectivity and truthfulness. Bishop Woelki will therefore not be able to get off the hook by comparing himself with normal employers. Now it is up to the representatives of the state to draw the right conclusions!" 

gbs provides "administrative assistance" for leaving the church

In recent months, many citizens have decided to increase the pressure on the churches by withdrawing their membership en masse. Currently, not even this is possible in many large German cities, because the responsible authorities are overloaded and cannot issue timely appointments. To ensure that no one has to pay church tax for longer than necessary, the gbs has designed a church membership withdrawal form that can be filled out on the computer and printed out. The document should be signed by hand and sent by registered mail to the relevant authority. The correct address can be found on the website (for Cologne, the address is: Amtsgericht Köln, Justizgebäude, Reichenspergerplatz 1, 50670 Köln). 

It is still unclear how the authorities will proceed with this letter. They most likely will not want to recognize the advanced date for leaving the church. The Giordano Bruno Foundation and the Institut für Weltanschauungsrecht (ifw - Institute for Secular Law) are, on the other hand, happy to conduct a test case in this matter. It is unacceptable to be forced to remain a church member simply because the legislator has failed to adapt the church tax law to the legal reality and to create the possibility of leaving the church in an uncomplicated and timely manner (for example, by digital means). 

Information on the protest campaign at Cologne Cathedral

The protest rally has been initiated by the Giordano Bruno Foundation together with the "Aktionsbündnis Betroffeneninitiativen". Numerous organizations of people affected by abuse are members of this alliance: Eckiger Tisch e. V.MoJoRed e. V. – Missbrauchsopfer-Josephinum-RedemptoristenBetroffeneninitiative-HildesheimInitiative Ehemaliger Johanneum HomburgBetroffeneninitiative kirchlicher Missbrauch Süddeutschland e. V.Selbsthilfe Missbrauch MünsterSelbsthilfe Missbrauch Rhede, Initiative für einen Gedenkort am Johanneum as wel as Missbrauchsopfer & Betroffene im Bistum Trier MissBiT e. V.

The gathering with the "Hängemattenbischof" will take place daily from 17 to 19 March from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. each day on Cologne's Domplatte. Exception: On 18 March we will start at 8:30 am. It is advisable to make prior arrangements by telephone in case of last-minute changes. On Thursday, 18 March, there will be a press event with representatives of various organizations, including Matthias Katsch from Eckiger Tisch, in front of Cologne Cathedral at 12:00 pm. (The second expert opinion of the Archdiocese of Cologne will be published shortly before, at 10:00 am). The existing requirements for the containment of the Corona pandemic will of course be complied with.

- David Farago (gbs assembly manager), mobile: 0175 / 410 25 35
- Matthias Katsch (managing director Eckiger Tisch e.V.), mobile: 0178 / 167 48 38
- Jens Windel (Betroffeneninitiative-Hildesheim), mobile: 0176 / 476 112 85

Further links (selection):