IIn a press law proceeding by the Archdiocese of Cologne against Springer-Verlag, a witness has the credibility of the Archbishop of Cologne Rainer Maria Cardinal Woelki massively shaken. The subject of the dispute is the reporting of the case of the pastor Michael D., whom Woelki promoted to deputy city dean of Düsseldorf in 2017. Woelki had always claimed that he had only heard of a contact between the priest and a young male prostitute. Rumors going beyond this were never confirmed, so nothing stood in the way of the promotion.
Before the Cologne district court, the long-standing secretary of Woelki’s predecessor in Cologne said, Joachim Cardinal Meisner, on Wednesday that Woelki wanted to talk to her about Michael D. during his time as auxiliary bishop responsible for the Düsseldorf district, but in such a way that Meisner and the Vicar General Dominikus Schwaderlapp, who was responsible at the time, did not find out anything about it. In an approximately twenty-minute conversation, which the witness dated between 2009 and 2011, she truthfully told Woelki everything she knew about D.’s lifestyle: that she had been friends with D. for many years, that this came out to her as homosexual and that he was blackmailed by an underage sexual partner in 2002.
Woelki already informed about the pastor’s lifestyle in 2011
The 72-year-old witness also testified that she had accompanied D. on several occasions in order to be able to admonish him about his dealings with altar boys – sauna visits, innuendos, buying underwear. Around the year 2009, however, they ended the friendship. “I couldn’t stand it any longer,” the witness claims to have said to Meisner and Schwaderlapp. According to this, Woelki had precise first-hand information about D.’s lifestyle even before he was elected Archbishop of Berlin in 2011. Nevertheless, as the responsible auxiliary bishop, he saw no reason to insist on disciplinary consequences or a preliminary canonical investigation, as the guidelines of the German Bishops’ Conference, which have been in force since 2010, provide for cases like this – and this, although D. in 1995 under obscure circumstances from the Bergisches Land after Dusseldorf had been transferred.
A report by the then Head of Human Resources, Stefan Heß, and a note intended for Meisner by the then Abuse Officer, Norbert Trippen, from autumn 2010 also had no consequences. As is now known, new allegations against D. were made at that time. She had never seen Hess’s report, said the witness, but she had seen Trippen’s note. “Another thing from Düsseldorf,” she said to herself and forwarded the document to Cardinal Meisner without reading it.
During the witness hearing, it was also mentioned that an employee of the Cologne law firm Höcker named Brennecke had contacted Meisner’s former secretary by telephone after she had been summoned as a witness. The lawyer representing Cardinal Woelki as a plaintiff in the proceedings contacted the woman on June 22nd. According to her own words, she was “very agitated” at the time and had not yet decided whether she should follow the summons as a witness. In this situation, she “poured out her heart” to Brennecke. During the phone call, he offered her that she could contact him at any time. Among other things, he pointed out the possibility of getting a letter from her psychotherapist so that she would not have to testify. The witness made no use of this. “The lying has to stop,” she said on Wednesday. Evidence-gathering will continue in December.