For the cardinal, these are “ancient stories” that have long since been clarified. For the prosecutor, these are new stories that need to be clarified. In the Cologne abuse scandal, secular criminal prosecution now also plays a role. It’s about affidavits on a case from 2015 and an explosive interview. cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki and his diocese still do not come to rest. And all this a week before the visit of the German bishops to the Pope in Rome.
Why is? The public prosecutor’s office announced on Wednesday that criminal investigations against Woelki on suspicion of a false affidavit in connection with alleged abuse by the former “Sternsinger” president Winfried Pilz had started. Previously, a former employee of the HR department of the Archdiocese Cologne questioned a statement by the cardinal in the Pilz case and dem Cologne City Gazette supporting documents submitted.
Woelki does not want to have seen the list of 14 abusers
Woelki had in a dispute under press law with the picture-Zeitung sworn that he was only involved with the Pilz case in the fourth week of June 2022. The former assistant to the HR manager in the Archdiocese, Hildegard Dahm, who has now gone public, claims to have created a list of the names of 14 abusers from the Archdiocese of Cologne at the beginning of 2015, about three months after Woelkis took office, on which Pilz also included had been listed. This list was handed over to Woelki by the personnel manager, she said Cologne City Gazette. It could be that Woelki didn’t look at the list, “but I dealt with it. Very clearly,” Dahm told the newspaper. Her boss at the time took the list with him to a working meeting with the archbishop and then informed her when asked that the cardinal was not interested in the list.
After criminal charges on suspicion of making false statements, the Cologne public prosecutor’s office initially rejected investigations against Woelki at the end of October due to the lack of initial suspicion. After the media reports on the interview, the facts were checked again, “with the result that preliminary proceedings against the cardinal have now been started,” said senior public prosecutor Ulrich Bremer.
Pastor Winfried Pilz, who died in 2019, was president of the Catholic children’s mission organization “Die Sternsinger” for many years. Already in the 1970s, Pilz is said to have sexually abused a vulnerable young adult. In February 2014, a penal decree was sent to the retired Pilz, banning him from contact with minors and obliging him to make payments to those affected.
Woelki sees himself “pilloried” and let it be known that he considers the allegations to be “unfounded”. That he had seen the list was a claim “into the blue”. The Archdiocese also announced labor law steps against Dahm.