Cologne In the abuse trial against the Gummersbach priest Hans U., the canon lawyer Günter Assenmacher testified again as a witness and denied joint responsibility. In the afternoon, Hans U. was surprisingly arrested in the courtroom.
So far, the Catholic pastor Hans U. had always come to the trial in the Cologne district court as a free man. But after another alleged abuse victim testified against him in camera on Thursday, the presiding judge had the 70-year-old arrested in the hall. This was confirmed by court spokesman Jan Orth at the request of our editors. Because the renewed allegations against the pastor relate to alleged acts that were not long ago, there is now a risk of repetition.
Hans U. has been in court since November. Between 1993 and 1999 he is said to have sexually abused his three underage nieces in Gummersbach, some of them severely. In Wuppertal he is said to have abused an eleven-year-old girl in 2011. As the trial progressed, more and more alleged victims reported to the court. It is still unclear how many other women could have been abused by U. as children and adolescents. Among them is the priest’s former foster daughter. U. is said to have raped her several times. She became pregnant twice as a teenager and had an abortion, as she testified at the trial.
The process also deals with the role of the Archdiocese of Cologne. In the morning, the former official Günter Assenmacher was questioned again. As the archbishopric’s chief judge, Assenmacher was confronted with the U. case for the first time in 2010, because the priest had been accused of sexually abusing his niece in an anonymous letter. The niece’s written statements were “detailed and plausible”, as Assenmacher says. “But the statement suffered from the fact that the person did not repeat the statement.” Probably under pressure from her family, the young person had withdrawn the complaint against her uncle. The public prosecutor’s investigations were initially discontinued.
The question is whether the Archdiocese should have conducted its own investigations. During the first questioning of Assenmacher last week, it became clear that “a lot could be learned with little commitment,” as the presiding judge said. Girls, for example, stayed overnight in the vicarage.
Assenmacher says several times: “I was not responsible.” He was only involved in the case as a consultant. According to him, the U. case was only the fourth of its kind at the time. In the other cases, however, the evidence was much clearer. “We asked ourselves: what can we be sure of here?” The girl’s mother also did not want to speak to the archdiocese. The priest’s leave of absence was then lifted.
After his leave of absence, U. was employed as a hospital chaplain in Wuppertal. He was definitely given conditions, such as not to come into contact with children and young people. “As a rule, you are not alone in the hospital with children,” says Assenmacher. When asked by the chairman whether a risk analysis had been carried out, he said no. In retrospect, Assenmacher says that in the U. case, other victims could have been saved from attacks “if more effort had been made to put things together at the time”. He added: “I’m sorry that didn’t happen. But none of us can turn back the clock.”
Last year, Assenmacher was accused of breaches of duty in the processing of abuse cases in a report. Cardinal Rainer Maria Wölki then relieved him of his duties, and he later resigned from office. Assenmacher had headed the ecclesiastical court of the Archdiocese of Cologne for 26 years.
The process will actually.