Cardinal withdraws application for injunction against canon lawyer

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

Cardinal Woelki reaches legal settlement with canon lawyer, Thomas Schüller

Cardinal withdraws application for injunction against canon lawyer

The abuse allegations against the former Sternsinger president Winfried Pilz are putting Cologne’s Cardinal Woelki in a bind. Woelki took legal action against one of his harshest critics – now he is only fighting “Bild”.

Cologne Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki and canon lawyer Thomas Schüller have settled their legal dispute. The Archdiocese of Cologne announced that, following a sworn statement by Schüller, Woelki had withdrawn his application for a temporary injunction.

The background is allegations of abuse against the former Sternsinger president Winfried Pilz, who died in 2019. A former employee accused Pilz of sexually abusing him in the 1970s. Pilz, however, spoke of consensual sex.

The church investigated the allegations and the suspicions were substantiated. Woelki’s predecessor Cardinal Meisner issued a reprimand in 2014, Pilz paid a fine – and a ban on contact with minors was imposed on him.

Cardinal Woelki is under pressure because there is the accusation that he did not provide information about the case, although it had long been known within the church.

“Bild” had reported in an article about abuse allegations against Pilz. In 2010, the cleric had moved to East Germany, but the Diocese responsible, Dresden-Meissen, was not informed by the Archdiocese of Cologne about the allegations against him.

Schüller said in the report that the notification had been omitted under Woelki’s predecessor, Cardinal Joachim Meisner and had not been followed up by Woelki. The article went on to say, “The canon lawyer is also firm on the motive for Woelki’s breach of his official duty: ‘Pilz was under ancient monument protection by Woelki because of his prominence.'”

The archdiocese took action against Schüller and the newspaper because of this passage. The Archdiocese explained that Woelki had not even been involved with the Pilz case until June of this year. The accusations against him were therefore groundless. According to the Archdiocese, Schüller has now clarified that he did not comment on any alleged motive of Woelki.

“Aberrant interpretation”?

Schüller’s lawyer stressed that the sentence about the protection of monuments was correctly quoted. Schüller’s statement was merely a reaction to “the aberrant interpretation” that Cardinal Woelki had personally dealt with the case and had deliberately decided not to report the contact ban imposed on Pilz to the diocese of Dresden-Meissen because of Pilz’s prominence.

Schüller’s lawyer emphasised: “The fact that ‘Pilz was listed’ with Woelki is for Prof. Schüller in any case an explanation for the blatant omissions of the Archdiocese.” More decisive than the question of whether to describe it as a “motive” or an “explanation” was this: Cardinal Woelki had not objected in the legal dispute to being accused by Schüller of “a clear breach of official duty”.

A “Bild” spokesperson said that Schüller had released the quotes published in the article both in isolation and in context.

Despite the abuse allegations against Pilz, after his death the archdiocese published an effusive obituary for the priest who had written the famous hymn “Laudato si”. In the meantime, the church is investigating the suspicion that possibly even more people were abused by Pilz.

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