Bishop resigns as abuse spokesman for German bishops’ conference

BONN, Germany — Bishop Stephan Ackermann will step down as spokesperson on abuse issues for the German bishops’ conference in September, the conference announced May 12.

The bishops also announced that they would revamp their reassessment of sexual violence in the context of the Church, German Catholic news agency KNA reported.

Ackermann, 59, from Trier, was recently criticized for naming a female victim in a sexual abuse case.

He said a new and broader accountability structure was needed as soon as possible so that the Catholic Church in Germany could do more justice to the complexity of the sexual abuse issue and the dimension of the task. He said he would therefore resign from office at the autumn plenary assembly of the episcopal conference, KNA reported.

Bishop Georg Bätzing, president of the bishops’ conference, thanked Ackermann for his 12 years of service as a spokesperson on abuse issues.

Bätzing said that without Ackermann’s efforts, the conference’s intervention and prevention regulations and other documents would not have been conceivable, in particular the 2018 research project on child sexual abuse perpetrated by the Catholic clergy in Germany.

Ackermann took the newly created post in 2010, when the headmaster of the Jesuit Canisius High School in Berlin exposed an abuse scandal that sparked a wave of revelations about sexual violence in the church and other institutions, reports KNA.

Ackermann recently came under heavy criticism after revealing the real name of a victim known under an alias. The woman is an employee of the diocese of Trier. Calling herself “Karin Weissenfels”, she repeatedly reported spiritual abuse and sexual assault by a priest some 30 years ago.

The bishop used his real name in front of about 40 diocesan employees.

He then signed a cease and desist statement and apologized to the woman. Victims’ groups and the episcopal conference’s victims’ advisory council called on him to resign.

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