Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Woelki under perjury investigation over testimony on abuser

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The prosecutor’s office in Cologne has launched investigations into whether or not Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne is guilty of perjury.

The investigations concern the case of Fr Winfried Pilz, president of the well-known German children’s aid society “Die Sternsinger”, for 17 years head of a large youth centre in Altenberg near Cologne and a popular song writer. 

Already under Cardinal Joachim Meisner, Archbishop of Cologne from 1989-2014, Pilz was found guilty of sexual abuse, fined €4,000 euros and forbidden to work with young people. He died in 2019.

The archdiocese of Cologne did not make the Pilz abuse case public until June this year.

In August this year Woelki swore on oath in court that he had only learned of the Pilz case in the last week of June this year, but the former assistant of the Cologne archdiocese’s chief of staff, Hildegard Dahm, has now contradicted Woelki’s statement. 

On 9 November she told the German daily Kölner Stadt Anzeiger that already at the beginning of 2015 she had handed Woelki a list of priests who had sexually abused minors, with Pilz’s name on it which stated that he had as yet only paid one instalment of his €4,000 fine.

The Cologne archdiocese rejected the accusations against Woelki and said it would take legal action.

On 10 November a group of church employees in the Cologne archdiocese demanded that Woelki take leave of absence until the prosecution had dealt with the case. 

Meanwhile, however, Herbert Lüdecke, one of Germany’s best-known canon lawyers, has pointed out that according to canon law a bishop cannot decide on his own to take leave of absence. 

“That is solely a matter for the Pope”, he pointed out. Woelki offered Pope Francis his resignation in March this year but the Pope has not yet responded.