Sexual violence in the diocese of Cologne: complaint by ex-acolyte "justified" according to court

A Catholic priest is said to have abused a young acolyte in hundreds of cases in the 1970s.

Sexual violence in the diocese of Cologne: complaint by ex-acolyte "justified" according to court

A Catholic priest is said to have abused a young acolyte in hundreds of cases in the 1970s. The 62-year-old man is demanding 750,000 euros as compensation for pain and suffering. The district court of Cologne sees his complaint as "justified" and gives the prospect of a six-figure compensation for pain and suffering.

The Cologne district court considers the claim for damages by a former acolyte affected by abuse to be justified. The presiding judge of the 5th civil division made this clear in a first hearing in the civil dispute. "For us, there is no question that official liability law is applicable. We don't see any discussion about that," said the judge. The now 62-year-old plaintiff Georg Menne is demanding compensation from the Archdiocese of Cologne for the suffering he has suffered. The man's lawyer sees the Archdiocese as liable.

According to the court, however, it is completely open whether a judgment will amount to the sum of 750,000 euros demanded by the plaintiff. After preliminary deliberations on the case, the chamber is tending towards a "six-figure amount in the low range," said the presiding judge.

The plaintiff is demanding compensation from the Archdiocese of Cologne for suffering suffered in the 1970s. According to the complaint, he was the victim of more than 300 cases of sexualized violence by a Catholic priest. According to reports from ZDF and ARD, the pastor, who has since died, admitted his actions to the victim in a letter and apologized. The letter will therefore serve as evidence in the process.

In this case, however, it is particularly about the liability of the church as an institution: As early as the 1960s, there were rumors of abuse by the priest, who has since died, said the plaintiff's lawyer. Nevertheless, the archdiocese continued to use him in pastoral care, which is why the diocese is liable for the crimes committed, according to the plaintiff.

The negotiations did not result in an amicable agreement. However, both parties were open to talks. The representative of the archdiocese rejected the suggestion of a plaintiff's lawyer that the diocese should pay the required sum plus legal and court costs. This is a path "that we cannot go," said the lawyer.

The process is considered a procedure with signal character. "So I'm definitely fighting for many other people affected," said the 62-year-old to journalists after the hearing. This thought doesn't make things so difficult for him anymore. The plaintiff has already received an acknowledgment payment of 25,000 euros from the Archdiocese for his suffering.

The actions of the priest against the plaintiff are not disputed by the Archdiocese. They are listed in the so-called Cologne abuse report by criminal lawyer Björn Gercke. The report was published in March 2021.

Because of the actions that took place around 40 years ago, it was unclear for a long time whether the Archdiocese would assert the statute of limitations. A day before the hearing, the Archdiocese had declared that it would not do so. A state court should decide on the amount of the claim for damages for the actions of the priest, it said in a statement. "In this particular case, I wanted to waive the defense of the statute of limitations," Cologne Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki was quoted as saying in the statement.

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