It is an unprecedented process: In the abuse scandal of the Catholic Church, the public prosecutor’s office obtains a search warrant against the Munich Archdiocese. An action with symbolic power.
According to information from the “Süddeutsche Zeitung”, the public prosecutor’s office has made representations to the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising with a search warrant. The action is said to be related to the abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.
The archdiocese did not want to comment on Sunday’s request, and the public prosecutor’s office could not initially be reached for a statement. The investigations were not directed against Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the newspaper writes.
“Turning point” in relation to the church
It was “the first and long overdue search by a public prosecutor’s office with a judicial search warrant,” said canon lawyer Thomas Schüller of the dpa and spoke of a “turning point in the relationship between state judiciary and the churches”. Schüller: “Finally the constitutional state is showing its teeth to the Catholic Church and thus also to the Protestant Church.”
Since the publication of a sensational report on sexual violence in the Archdiocese more than a year ago, the Munich I public prosecutor’s office has been investigating. After the presentation of the study in January 2022, the authority announced that it would examine more than 40 cases of alleged misconduct by church leaders in dealing with abusers.
The law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl (WSW), which wrote the report on behalf of the Archdiocese, made the documents available to the public prosecutor, the authority said a year ago. “They only concern ecclesiastical leaders who are still alive and were transmitted in a highly anonymous form,” it said at the time. The study assumes at least 497 victims and 235 alleged perpetrators – and a much larger number of unreported cases. In the specific case, according to “SZ”, it should be about a clergyman who has died in the meantime, whose actions go back to the 1960s.
The judiciary – especially in Bavaria – had repeatedly been criticized for leaving the church to deal with the abuse scandal by itself, not intervening and thus enabling cover-ups. Minister of Justice Georg Eisenreich (CSU) spoke out in favor of an independent ombudsman for those affected in the state parliament in December and emphasized that church reports only play a very minor role in the prosecution of criminal offenses.
Even if the Archdiocese has always emphasized that it works with the public prosecutor’s office and has transmitted all relevant documents, and even if, according to “SZ”, nothing worth mentioning was found in the action, Schüller believes that it has great symbolic value: “The judiciary in the The Free State of Bavaria is showing all federal states how to do it and is demonstrating that the closed season for the churches is over when serious sexual offenses are suspected. The churches are not a state within a state, have no special rights and must be treated like everyone else,” he said.
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