Amid widespread concern that the Vatican had failed to react to the report that Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne had hushed up an abuse case, the notable German Sunday newspaper Welt am Sonntag has reported that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has come to the conclusion that Cardinal Woelki acted correctly.
Statements from unnamed “Vatican insiders” and “several top-ranking Roman sources” have reportedly confirmed that the Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, had been informed of a CDF decision in the Woelki case.
Cardinal Woelki is accused of failing to inform the Vatican about a priest known as Fr O, who had sexually abused a boy under six years of age in the 1970s. The cardinal has appealed to the Pope to decide his fate.
On 11 December, Bishop Felix Genn of Mu¨nster, as the longest-serving bishop in the province, notified the German nuncio, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, of the accusations against Woelki, and asked him to pass his report on to Rome. Bishop Genn has yet to receive a reply from the nuncio.
On 5 February, the Mu¨nster church weekly Kirche+Leben, which is published by Bishop Genn, drew attention to the fact that the Vatican had allowed the 30-day deadline, which Pope Francis laid down in his apostolic letter Vos estis on the handling ofclerical abuse cases, to expire in the Woelki case. The paper asked the nunciature in Berlin why the Vatican had not kept to the dead- line and whether an investigation of the Woelki case should be started, but received no reply.
On 6 February, Cardinal Woelki told the German daily Rheinische Post: “I will demand of myself that same obligation to take on responsibility that I ask of everyone else,” when asked if he would step down should a new abuse report he has commissioned accuse him of wrongdoing.
He himself had not read the first report he had commissioned, he said, but advisers had told him it would not stand up in court. Cardinal Woelki promised the new report would be ready “in a little more than five weeks”. Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich told the Augsburger Allgemeine Zeitung on 7 February: “The effect of what is happening [in Cologne] is particularly negative.”