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Time-Out for German Bishop

A bishop in Germany is on temporary leave after the pope rejected his resignation.

A brief statement on the Hamburg archdiocese website reads, “Pope Francis has given the archbishop of Hamburg, Stefan Hesse, a break. During his absence, the vicar general, Msgr. Ansgar Thim, will ensure proper administration of the archdiocese.”

Hesse attempted mid-March to step down as archbishop, requesting “immediate release” from all duty.

This, after a report revealed 11 counts of negligence in clergy sex abuse cases.

Abp. Stefan Hesse: “I have never participated in any cover-up. Nevertheless, I am willing to bear my share for the failure of the system.”

The 11 counts of negligence involve nine separate cases, all detailed in the 800-page study published on March 18.

Abp. Hesse: “I regret very much if I have caused further suffering to those affected and their relatives as a result of my actions or my failure to act.”

Known as the Gercke Report, after the attorney in charge, the study is the result of an independent investigation into personnel files from 1975 onwards.

Cardinal Rainer Woelki of Cologne had commissioned a Munich law firm in January 2019 to determine “which personal, systemic or structural deficits were responsible in the past for incidents of sexual abuse being covered up or not being punished consistently.”

On publication of the report, Woelki expressed a mixture of relief and sadness — relief because the Church now had clarity about the past, and sadness over the misconduct identified.

Cdl. Rainer Woelki: “This is cover-up. Today we received the disappointing confirmation of what this word means.”

Hesse is a proponent of the so-called synodal way, the German bishops’ attempt to change immutable Church teaching on topics from homosexuality to the ordination of women.

Abp. Hesse: “I am a member of the [synodal way] forum ‘Women in Ministries and Offices in the Church.'”

In fact, Hesse has openly discussed women deacons and priestesses, claiming the Church’s teaching was not settled on the matter.

With this in mind, one Catholic told Church Militant it’s not surprising the pope is keeping him around.


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