Friday, July 23, 2010

German Bishops Conference head did not follow his own anti-abuse guidelines?

Deutschland: Birnau – Terra Incognita fuer Zollitsch? -

Birnau - Terra Incognita for Zollitsch?
Has Robert Zollitsch not followed in the case Birnau the anti-abuse guidelines of the Episcopal Conference? His office would rather talk about other things.

"Wherever that is there is a suspicion, there must be a seamless and absolutely transparent investigation," Freiburg Archbishop Robert Zollitsch stated in February at the General Assembly of the German Bishops' Conference said. He is its chairman. "We German bishops insist that the earlier and some long past,like naturally all recent cases of sexual abuse of minors must be investigated.

The pressure has since been sometimes more, sometimes less clearly felt. The Freiburg Press, for example, is currently rather silent. It was not always so - meaning that there was hardly a ecclesiastical affairs editor who does not know what a Territorial Abbey is: The newly named Office of Communications has augmented the declaration with weekly statements. But: Why?

In the spring the BZ and other media reported on a case of sexual abuse that occurred in the late 60s at the Cistercian monastery of Birnau, whose Fathers have been responsible for pastoral care in Birnau since 1946. In the BZ, it twas made known that the victim, Peter P. accused Father Gregory M..

2006 P. reported the case to the archdiocese in the context of his therapy. Although the accused had admitted the fact in writing and P. found out that the Order knew of further acts of abuse, M.was able to work in March 2010 in Schübelbach (Diocese Chur) as the parish administrator, which obviously included contact with children obviously. His resignation only occured when P. had threatened the priest, with a demonstration outside the church.
What exactly is a Territorial?

How could this happen? The archdiocese clarifies the case with the history of the Territorial Abbey - an exotic story which is likely to confuse even experts. Worldwide, only a dozen of such abbeys exist and the statement begins: "The Cistercian Abbey of Mehrerau is one of these Territorial Abbeys', which comes under the responsibility of the Abbot. The Pilgrimage and Monastery Church of Birnau was made a priory in 1919 of the Abbey of Mehrerau. Territorial Abbey (...) means a geographically circumscribed area whose care is entrusted to an abbot. This is his sole responsibility – which he excercises as a diocesan bishop. Such a Regional Abbey does not belong to any diocese and is completely independent of the diocesan bishop. "

The story goes further, however, but at this point, virtually all media in Germany and a number of canon lawyers had the impression Zollitsch was not responsible for the events in Birnau. The Badische Zeitung, too. Already in March, the Ordinariat assured that it had informed the abbot both about the 2006 and the disclosure of new allegations in 2010 and required consequences. Since the events in 2006 could not be pursued under statute of limitations, they respected the wish of the victim at that time, not to inform the public prosecutor (P. saids differently).

In June, the Ordinariat stated: "Several canon law experts and the abbot of the Cistercian Abbey of Wettingen-Mehrerau, Anselm van der Linde, have already made it clear that Zollitsch had nothing to do with the personnel decisions and processes in the monastery Birnau." Abbot Anselm has been in office since 2009.
Canon lawyer Beer corrects himself

Only slowly was doubt woken on the relevance of the information. There such a thing as a "territorially circumscribed area" of the Territorial Abbey, but apparently only in Austria. And if Archbishop Zollitsch in Birnau was not responsible, why did he then set up a new pastoral care unit there in 2007, according to the Official Journal and appointed the Cistercian Father Bruno Metzler to lead it ? The jurist Georg Beer, a professor at the University of Freiburg, has been quoted in the spring by the Catholic news agency KNA and the diocese on the case. Following the research by the BZ he corrected himself:

"The Sanctuary of St. Mary is in the territory of the Archdiocese of Freiburg," even if that is the property of the Order. On the pastoral care unit, this means: "The parish care belongs to the archdiocese of Freiburg (...), Its area is part of the territory of the Archdiocese of Freiburg. (...) The pastoral care of the parish curacy has been since the establishment in 1946 given to the Cistercian monks of the Abbey of Wettingen Mehrerau. This is the responsibility according to canon 520 of the relevant archbishop, in this case the Archbishop of Freiburg. (...). Responsible chief pastor of the faithful is the Archbishop of Freiburg. "

The BZ even has the opinion of the renowned U.S. jurist and abuse expert Thomas P. Doyle. He was asked by Skydaddy's Blog . In fact, he also followed the initial reasoning of the diocese, but then corrected his opinion also.
The formulations of the press office were strangely empty

Were those responsible in the Ordinariat simply mistaken? One would like to believe it. On the other hand Zollitsch is considered a management expert and obviously takes his other rights in Birnau quite seriously. Above all, one would expect after an error a statement which really corrects the matter, for example, correcting: "The pastoral care unit of Birnau does not belong to the Archdiocese and Archbishop Zollitsch has no responsibility for the care of its believers."

These statements however, were never withdrawn. Instead, the wording of the Press Office turns out as curiously empty - a closer look at the statements and one would expect something wrong to be corrrected yet, so to speak, nothing: The pilgrimage church and monastery of Birnau really belongs as a priory to the Abbey Mehrerau. In all important respects it belongs here to the archdiocese, including their pastoral care unit. Robert Zollitsch may also have had nothing to to with personnel decisions and processes in the monastery have had nothing. For the care of the parishioners by priests, he was very much responsible. The Office of Communications communicates not false but irrelevant statements. Why the effort?

There does not seem to have been a subsequent inspection

Clearer sentences can be found in the guidelines of the Episcopal Conference: "The responsibility for the examination of cases of sexual abuse of minors by religious, operating under the provisions of episcopal instructions is, - without prejudice to the responsibility of superiors - in the diocese." This is true since 2002. Is it sufficient in 2006 to give the information to the Abbot? No, replied George Beer. "A mere passing on of the information about a potential offender (and his victims) to the competent superiors, especially if this occurs without subsequent monitoring not correspond to the demands of the guidelines."

There appears not to have been a subsequent inspection- and little other research. Thus, the victim had even to find out that it was not the only case- and that the Order knew a long time ago about the inclination of his tormentor: Between 1966 and 1968, there were apparently at least four adolescents abused in Birnau. In 1968 he lived in Mehrerau, where there were also victims, since he was sent as a punishment to Alsace. From 1971 to 1987 he worked conditionally in the diocese of Basel, where the abuses in Birnau and Mehrerau were documented on recruitment. Freiburg allegedly knew nothing.

Also in the diocese of Basel, M. relapsed. Was the offender in 2006 in Freiburg simply believed when he claimed a single act? And if Mehrerau really knew about this, differently to Basel, did they concealed the matter for decades- would it not have been natural to inquire, in Switzerland, about their experience? The Ordinariat obviously did not, but entrusted the Cistercians in 2007 again with the pastoral care in Birnau.

It would not have even been known that the priest in the early 90's again lived at the monastery of Birnau lived, from where he probably took up pastoral duties again. The personnel officer in the archdiocese at that time was Robert Zollitsch. Even in an email dated 23March 2010 wrote the person responsible for abuse questions, Canon Eugene Maier to the victim, "Father Gregory M. left the abbey of Birnau in 1968 and since then have not been in the Archdiocese of Freiburg and is no longer in Germany." Fairly extensive information. Only when P. could prove the contrary Father Maier also found G. was listed several years after 1989 in documentation. He apologized.
The victim found the statements false and misleading

At least now those in charge would probably have to be clear that they had taken for fools for years by the Abbey. No wonder: When the Ordinariat reported to Mehrerau in 2006, there still the same abbot as in 1968 The Order supervises Zollitsch’s pastures in Birnau to this day.

As P. wanted to ensure canonically that his tormentor was removed from work, they told him he should contact the person responsible at the current residence of the accused. It was not clear whether that was in Chur, still in Freiburg or in Mehrerau. Instead, P. was referred by the abbot a lawyer to whom Pater M had entrusted his interests – but the lawyer did not reveal the residence.

Freiburg had in the meantime made statements about P. 's case which he found false or misleading. On 19 May he made claimn to the prosecutor about Father M, as well as Zollitsch and those responsible for Father M: libel, suspected of obstruction of justice and aid to sexual abuse. The news ran nationwide. And the archdiocese explained what a Territorial Abbey is – one was ready for further information.

One would really like to know what everything means - the silence, the ambiguities. The shifting colours which are associated with the statements of the Ordinariat, if you look closer: They leave room for interpretations. The one that prevails in public is not always the one that subsequently endures. But at the beginning this was by and large possible.

As the canon lawyer Beer had once again considered the case for BZ, the Ordinariat left unanswered a request for clarification of a catalogue of open questions: "In view of the pending claims in Constance and the holiday season (...) the Ordinariat do not have in any way the possibility of giving such detailed information, "said spokesman Robert Eberle to the BZ. His office has not always been so sensitive. And as for the holiday season we would like to understand P. alone has had up to now to collect the facts about his case. Some questions, the Ordinariat has still not answered.
Differences between the cases of Birnau and Oberharmersbach

Peter P. has made direct contact with the Vatican on matters on canon law. An employee of the CDF would neither confirm nor deny to the BZ current proceedings. However, he also said: "There is really not such a thing as people who dive simply into a matter. I think we know where he (accused) is, and that the Abbot knows."

In the case of Oberharmersbach, the Freiburg Archbishop immediately asked for foregiveness "with all my heart," athat he had not searched intensively for victims and witnesses. In Birnau, this has still not been done. When Gregor M was overwhelmed by compulsion during his second stay, there are still probably cases which would not be stopped by statute of limitation- but time is running out. The Diocese of Basel made a public appeal on Ms resignation, whereupon four injured parties promptly got in contact. The publication of the accusation in Birnau has so far encouraged noone to contact the authorities.

It is likely to remain there: Last week, Constance had given up proceeding against the absence of acts not covered by the statute of limitations. That is expected according to the Südkurier also for the charges against Zollitsch (Cathcon- now announced the authorities won’t be proceeding given the statute of limitations). Whether the prosecutor has at least been looking for other victims, it was not possible to ascertain on Tuesday due to a staff outing.
Church law would be the failure probably not justiciable

Without crime, no abetting : for this reason Archbishop Zollitsch can therefore also look towards what is in front of him. Also canonically, his alleged failure according to Beer, would probably not brought before the court. First, "because the guidelines, are only 'guidelines and not legally binding texts ". And secondly, because according to Roman legislation, one would have to prove that Zollitsch actually knew that Father M. in the 90s was active in pastoral duties for the Diocese for which Zollitsch was responsible. The fact that he could have taken action with a closer look at the files is not enough. "Nothing is decisive with regard to moral obligations and their compliance," concluded Beer.

That P. instead the story of the Territorial Abbey instead hears the the essential answers to questions important to his life, is quite sure. Unless someone with influence still remembers two statements from Zollitsch: On Good Friday he had complained that in previous cases' “a caring regard for victims has not been enough. There is a also a painful reality that we have to take account of. "