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Abbot comes to defense of leading German bishop, says abbey to blame for abusive priest’s transfer

Catholic World News - June 04, 2010

Cistercian Abbot Anselm van der Linde of Wettingen-Mehrerau has come to the defense of Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg, the president of the German episcopal conference. The archbishop is under investigation for a decision made in 1987 to transfer a Cistercian priest who had committed abuse. The archbishop was personnel director of the archdiocese when the transfer occurred.

In a statement distributed by the Vatican press office, Abbot van der Linde, 39, said that his abbey, and not Archbishop Zollitsch, was responsible for the decision. “From the point of view of canon law, the abbot of that monastery is responsible for the members of the community,” he said. “Moreover, the Cistercian community is an order of pontifical right; hence, it is not subject to the local bishops, but to the Pope.”

“I cannot make the injustice that took place not to have happened,” he added. “I can only invite and encourage the victims to contact the state authorities and, if it is possible for them, to contact me.”

Supporting Abbot van der Linde’s statement that the local diocese had nothing to do with the transfer is the fact that his abbey is a territorial abbey. Unlike most abbots, a territorial abbot governs the clergy, religious, and laity in a certain geographic area as their “proper pastor, just like a diocesan bishop” (Canon 370).

Founded in 1227, the Territorial Abbey of Wettingen-Mehrerau was governed by Abbot Kassian (Otto) Lauterer from 1968 until his retirement in 2009 at the age of 75. The most recent scandal is not the first that took place under Abbot Lauterer’s leadership: Abbot van der Linde admitted in March that a monk at the abbey had abused a boy in the 1980s and that another monk had abused a young male drug user in 2001. Archdiocesan officials in Freiburg also denounced the allegation against Archbishop Zollitsch. In a statement also distributed by the Vatican press office, the archdiocese noted that Archbishop Zollitsch was not aware until 2006 that the priest had committed abuse.

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  • Posted by: Lilacs2me - Jun. 04, 2010 6:46 PM ET USA

    I'm confused. I always thought the Cistercians were totally cloistered, so why would they be in a parish?

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