Resignation of disgraced Bishop raises questions

Norpoth: Resignation also raises questions

The resignation of Bishop Franz-Josef Bode also raises questions, according to Johannes Norpoth, spokesman for the Victims Advisory Council at the German Bishops' Conference.

Gelsenkirchen - Johannes Norpoth, spokesman for the Victims' Advisory Council at the German Bishops' Conference, says the resignation of Osnabrück Bishop Franz-Josef Bode is the right thing to do. But it also raises questions, Norpoth told the Neues Ruhrwort. The Vatican had announced on Saturday that the Pope had accepted Bode's resignation. Bode himself justified his resignation above all with his own mistakes in dealing with sexual abuse. The interim report published last September on dealing with sexualised violence in theDiocese of Osnabrück "once again clearly showed his own mistakes in dealing with cases of abuse".

Johannes Norpoth said that Bode's resignation was "absolutely right because he is accepting his personal responsibility in his leadership function". "For those affected and for the Church, today is a good day." Bode had made mistakes here, as the study on the Diocese of Osnabrück had also clearly shown. "At the same time, Bode has now set a number of things in motion. His decision deserves respect," Norpoth said.

At the same time, Norpoth pointed out that Bode's resignation was a first. So far, the Pope had rejected the resignations of other bishops in connection with the abuse scandal. These are the Cologne auxiliary Bishops Ansgar Puff and Dominikus,Schwaderlapp as well as Cardinal Reinhart Marx (Munich) and Archbishop Stefan Heße (Hamburg). In the case of Cologne Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, the decision has been pending for about a year.

"So is this now the new line of the Vatican?" asked Norpoth. "Does responsibility in abuse matters play a role now after all? Or is this a case of a liberal bishop being dismissed from office while the conservative bishop of Cologne still remains in office?" At the same time, Norpoth expressly regretted that, in his eyes, Bode's step "further weakens the line of reform-minded bishops in the German Bishops' Conference".

At the same time, Woelki was still in office as a critic of the Synodal Way. Norpoth has already criticised the Vatican several times for statements on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. In their letter on the establishment of the Synodal Council, the highest-ranking representatives of the Vatican leadership elite had used "relativising language in the context of the greatest crisis of the Catholic Church in modern times, which leaves one stunned".


See also 

Synodal Path: The Norpoth family wants to save the Church

Katharina Norpoth from Gelsenkirchen and her father Johannes are involved in the Synodal Way, the reform process of the Catholic Church. She knows modern church from youth work. He is a victim of abuse.

Johannes Norpoth walks across the Cathedral square in Cologne. A bright red scarf protects him from the cold. He is on his way to the Catholic cathedral radio station. There he is to tell his story, which, like so many, is about abuse by priests - and about those responsible who did not protect children even though they could have.

"He had already committed acts"

"The perpetrator was transferred to my home parish, although it was clear to the diocese management that he had already committed two acts at his previous place of employment," says Norpoth about what he experienced as a child. His case is also part of the abuse study in the Essen diocese.

The fact that the adult Johannes Norpoth nevertheless continues to be involved in the church is a bit schizophrenic, he says himself. But he feels a responsibility, for example at the Synodal Assembly, to keep bringing the perspective of those affected into focus: "Even though I am a victim of abuse, the good Lord has preserved my ability to speak," says the sociologist and spokesman for the Bishops' Conference's Advisory Council for Victims. Many other victims have fallen silent after the abuse.

It's about respect

That she has to raise her voice if she wants to change something is something his daughter Katharina learned early on. The 31-year-old was national chairperson of the Catholic Youth in Germany for five years. Already in September 2022, she chaired the 4th Synodal Assembly with over 200 participants as a moderator.

"I'm not afraid of anyone," the Gelsenkirchen native reveals with a grin. "But respect for everyone." It is precisely this respect and the conversation that arises from it that she sometimes misses in the Synodal Way, she says. The fact that some bishops do not collaborate on the texts but then vote against them is hurtful, she says.

Can the Church reform itself?

Precisely these texts are the central element of the reform attempt: they deal with a Catholic sexual morality that is no longer supposed to be from the day before yesterday. About women who may one day be allowed to become priests. About priests who are allowed to marry and bishops who share their power.

Many hundreds of hours were spent writing the texts, and at the assembly they are discussed and voted on. Work that most, like the Norpoths, do on a voluntary basis.

Katharina Norpoth in conversation with two other people.Katharina Norpoth (centre) in conversation at the past Synodal Assembly of the Synodal Way in September 2022.

"Spasmodic clinging to power".

Johannes Norpoth then becomes clear in view of the behaviour of individual bishops. Scientific findings on abuse in the church are still not recognised by all, he tells WDR: "Some bishops deny the truth. They want to continue to exist in their clerical castle in the air. Far away from any reality."

The fact that the Pope and some cardinals from Rome repeatedly tried to put the brakes on the German reform process also annoys him.

At the Synodal Assembly in September 2022, 164 of the 212 participants voted for a text calling for more separation of powers in the church. The topic is again on the agenda at the current assembly. Katharina Norpoth will then sit at the front and moderate. Johannes Norpoth will sit with the observers. If necessary, they can encourage each other during the coffee break.


Cathcon:  It seems that Norpoth's complaint to the North German Bishops felled Bode.  Given the instrumentalisation of the abuse scandal by the laity to seize power in the Church, this is a case of the revolution consuming its own.