Head of German Bishops Conference, tied in legal knots, forced to sign cease-and-desist declaration

The chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing, has signed a cease-and-desist declaration in the case of a victim of sexual assault. This means he is not allowed to repeat certain statements.

In the case of a victim of sexual assault from the Diocese of Trier, the Bishop of Limburg and President of the German Bishops' Conference, Georg Bätzing, has also signed a cease-and-desist declaration. According to the declaration, Bätzing is not allowed to repeat certain statements about the case of the woman known under the pseudonym Karin Weißenfels. This is stated in the declaration signed by Bätzing in November 2022, which is available to the Catholic News Agency (KNA). The Deutschlandfunk radio station had first reported on the matter on Tuesday. A spokesperson for the Bishops' Conference stated on request that Bishop Bätzing would not comment on the case.

In the statement, Bätzing undertakes to no longer speak of a "relationship between two adult persons" and a "guilt development" in the Weißenfels case, among other things. These formulations suggested a normal relationship and complicity on Weißenfels' part, did not address the sexual abuse and were trivialising, according to a letter from Weißenfels' lawyer to the bishop. The letter also contains a statement on Bätzing's handling of the case and his knowledge of it. Bätzing was head of the Diocesan Administration in Trier from 2012 to 2016, before becoming Bishop of Limburg. The relevant statements come from a press conference in spring 2021.

Abuse and assaults by a priest

Weißenfels had repeatedly reported spiritual abuse and sexual assault by a priest from the 1980s to the 2000s. She claims to have become pregnant as an adult by a priest in her charge and to have been pressured by him and another priest to have an abortion. The accused have since died. She accuses the Diocese, among other things, of not transparently clearing up the case and responsibilities until today.

At the same time, Weißenfels told the KNA that the Independent Commission for Recognition Services, commissioned by the Bishops' Conference, had in the meantime awarded her a monetary payment. The sum is reportedly significantly higher than the average payments made so far. According to the latest information, these averaged about 22,000 euros.

Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier had also signed a cease-and-desist declaration in the case, after he had mentioned the woman's true name in front of employees of the Diocese in spring 2022. At the time, he was still the abuse commissioner of the bishops in Germany. This Wednesday, a hearing on the matter will take place before the Trier labour court. Weißenfels is demanding 20,000 euros in compensation from the bishop and the diocese. The labour court has jurisdiction because the woman is still an employee of the diocese. 



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