Maike Hickman reports for LifeSiteNews : Cardinal Karl Lehmann, one of the members of the so-called “Sankt Gallen Group,” has now been accused by experts of having covered up for abuse cases in his diocese of Mainz, Germany. Together with his predecessor Hermann Volk, Lehmann, who died in 2018, is accused of moving priests who were accused of sexual abuse into other parishes. “Clear indications in the parishes were ignored and played down,” according to Ulrich Weber, the head of the new Mainz abuse study.
On Wednesday, October 7, Weber, together with the current bishop of Mainz, Peter Kohlgraf, presented the interim results of his study that the diocese had started in 2019. Weber is a lawyer who had previously investigated the choir of the Regensburg singers. This Mainz study is to be published in 2020 and covers all abuse cases since 1945 up to 2019. So far, there have been found 422 victims and 273 accused persons in the diocese, but further research and confirmation of the accusations need to be done.
It is clear that under both Volk and Lehmann, “the diocesan leadership often did not have an adequate response to relevant reports,” Weber explained during a press conference, according to the Catholic website Domradio. Even severe accusations of abuse merely led to small sanctions on the part of the diocese. In addition, if one of the accused priests was sent to another diocese, no information was passed on concerning his deeds. Victims, abusers, and those who informed the diocese about sexual abuse were also instructed to remain silent. Weber added that the personnel files were kept in such a way that they contributed to the obfuscation of the abuse cases.
Karl Lehmann was the bishop of Mainz from 1983 until 2016; his predecessor, Hermann Volk, had ruled the diocese from 1962 until 1982. Volk, like Lehmann, was a progressivist theologian and had participated at the Second Vatican Council, promoting the idea of ecumenism and friendship with Protestants. Lehmann served as an assistant to Father Karl Rahner at the Second Vatican Council. These two men were responsible for this mishandling of abuse cases for more than fifty years.
According to the report of the local newspaper Allgemeine Zeitung, Weber insisted that both Lehmann and Volk are to be accused of “misconduct with regard to cases of sexual violence.” In one case, one paid the legal costs for an abuser, Weber explained, and in another, one downplayed the gravity of the actual sexual abuse. “Often, the response to abuse cases was to place the abuser priest into another parish.” This took place even when the “pedophile inclinations were already the object of conversations in the city,” he added.
Another report of the Allgemeine Zeitung quotes Weber as pointing out that Cardinal Lehmann, after new guidelines concerning sexual abuse were established in 2002, followed them. He was the bishop of Mainz from 1983 until 2016. But Weber asked: “How can it be that the diocesan leadership for the first time responded to incidents [of sexual abuse] after there was pressure on the part of the public and in the meda?” He added: “How can it be that over such a long period of time, there was no palpable and authentic compassion for the victims?”
Kohlgraf was praised by Weber as fully cooperating in the investigation of the history of sexual abuse in the diocese, and Kohlgraf himself said the task is now to face earlier mistakes that took place under the prominent former bishops Volk and Lehmann. “We will not avoid responding to this task. In this regard, there exists no taboo in the diocese.”
Cardinal Lehmann was a member of the so-called Sankt Gallen Group that sought to liberalize the Catholic Church, loosening the Church’s stance on the question of “remarried” divorcés, a so-called female priesthood, and sexual morality. They also wished to promote collegiality and ecumenism, topics that were highlighted at the Second Vatican Council.
Lehmann is not the only member of the Sankt Gallen Group being accused of mishandling sexual abuse. Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor was accused by a British woman of having abused her, and he was also shown to have allowed an abuser priest to work in an airport chapel, where he went on abusing a teenage boy with learning disabilities. Murphy O’Connor treated another abuser priest in a similarly lenient way.
Finally, the prominent Sankt Gallen member Cardinal Godfried Danneels was caught on tape counseling the nephew of Belgian bishop Roger Vangheluwe, who had abused him, to remain silent and not to bring charges against his uncle.
These examples clearly show that a laxening of the Church’s doctrinal and moral teachings leads to a laxer response to sin. In this case, this attitude of leniency toward sin had grave effects on many victims of sexual abuse.