Düsseldorf cardinal suspended after sexual harassment allegations

A prominent cardinal in Düsseldorf has reportedly been placed on leave due to an allegation that he sexually assaulted an adult clergyman in 2012.

Düsseldorf cardinal suspended after sexual harassment allegations
Cardinal Ulrich Hennes, pictured here in 2005. Image: DPA.

The same cardinal was reportedly reinstated by the church after undergoing 'therapy' following similar allegations in the 1990s.

Cardinal Ulrich Hennes, who serves as the city dean for Düsseldorf, has been suspended from his role due to sexual assault allegations. 

SEE ALSO: Germany's Catholic Church addresses child abuse scandal amid protests

Archbishop of Cologne Rainer Maria Woelki placed the cardinal on compulsory leave due to the pending allegations, with RP Online reporting that the man underwent a church-administered ‘therapy’ program in relation to the sexual molestation of a teenager in the 1990s. 

The report casts doubt on the effectiveness of the church’s ability to self regulate and prosecute allegations against clergymen, particularly as a report completed at the end of the therapy process found that the Cardinal could return to work “without conditions”. 

A spokesman for the church said that Hennes was “committed to therapy, which was then completed” in the 1990s, with the church deciding to reinstate him to his position.  

Hennes denied the allegations to RP Online, while also confirming that he was not a flight risk. “I am innocent”, he said. “I have no reason to flee (Düsseldorf)”. 

Archbishop of Cologne Rainer Maria Woelki. Image: DPA

Archbishop Woelki said that Hennes was entitled to the presumption of innocence, but sought to reaffirm the church’s commitment to tackle sexual misconduct in its ranks. 

“We do not tolerate any form of sexual assault and consistently follow the relevant instructions and suspected cases,” says Cardinal Woelki.

As reported by The Local in March, the Catholic Church in Germany promised to urgently confront sexual abuse scandals amid allegations that victims had been “stonewalled”. 

SEE ALSO: German Catholic Church apologizes as scale of child abuse laid bare

The guidelines of the German Bishops Conference require that members of the clergy be suspended for the duration of the process after allegations have been made. 

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Hennes was made city dean of Düsseldorf in 2016, a role which requires him to act as a representative of the bishop in the city. 


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Pope rejects German bishop’s offer to quit over abuse scandal

Pope Francis on Thursday rejected an offer by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, a top German bishop, to resign over the mishandling of sexual abuse and cover-up scandals.

Pope rejects German bishop's offer to quit over abuse scandal
Marx following a service in Haar, Bavaria on Sunday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Matthias Balk

“Continue as you propose (in your pastoral work) but as Archbishop of
Munich and Freising,” the pope wrote to Marx, referring to the position he was offering to vacate.

Marx announced earlier this month that he had offered the pope his
resignation over the church’s “institutional and systemic failure” in handling
child sex abuse scandals.

READ ALSO: German bishop resigns over Catholic Church’s ‘failure’ in abuse scandal

The stunning decision came after the church in Germany, like in many places elsewhere, was shaken by allegations of wide-ranging abuse by clergymen against minors.

In his letter, the pope agreed with Marx in calling the clerical sexual
abuse scandals “a catastrophe” and the way the Catholic Church dealt with them “until recently”.

“The entire Church is in crisis because of the abuse issue” and “the Church
cannot proceed without tackling this crisis. The policy of burying the head in
the sand leads nowhere,” he wrote.

In his original letter to the pope dated May 21st and published on June 4th by his archdiocese, Marx said: “It is important to me to share the responsibility for the catastrophe of the sexual abuse by Church officials over the past decades.”

Investigations and reports had “consistently shown there have been many
personal failures and administrative mistakes but also institutional or
‘systemic’ failure,” added Marx, who was president of the German Bishops’
Conference from 2012 to 2020.

Slamming colleagues who “refuse to believe there is a shared responsibility
in this respect”, he said the Church was at “a dead end”.

Marx — who was never personally accused of abuse or cover up, and who
would have remained a cardinal even if Francis had allowed him to quit as
archbishop — added that he hoped his resignation would offer a new beginning for the Church.

Speaking to journalists, he confirmed the pope had given him permission to
publish the letter and that he would continue in his role until he received a
response to his offer.