The church is searching for individuals who have made allegations of abuse against the deceased Cardinal Hengsbach.
The Catholic Church is investigating allegations of abuse against the founding bishop of the Ruhr diocese and later cardinal, Franz Hengsbach (1910-1991). This was announced in parallel press releases by the diocese of Essen and the archdiocese of Paderborn. Hengsbach established the new diocese in the largest urban area in Germany in 1958 and led it until his death in 1991. Prior to that, he served as an auxiliary bishop in Paderborn.
If the accusations are proven true, Hengsbach would be the first high-ranking Catholic clergyman in Germany to have his own abuse confirmed. The Diocese of Essen itself describes the accusations as „serious“. It is stated that any other potential victims should contact the independent contacts within the diocese.
Accusations are also made against Brother Paul Hengsbach.
In one case, it concerns the alleged abuse of a 16-year-old teenager in 1954 in the Archdiocese of Paderborn during Hengsbach’s time as auxiliary bishop. The alleged victim came forward in June 2011 and reported abuse by both Franz Hengsbach and his deceased brother Paul Hengsbach, who was also a priest. Paul Hengsbach vehemently denied the accusations.
The accusations were subsequently dismissed as „not plausible“ by the Paderborn Vicariate and later by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome. The woman did not receive any money. From today’s perspective and after a reexamination, the previous assessment of plausibility must unfortunately be significantly called into question, as stated in the communication from Paderborn. In another case involving accusations against Paul Hengsbach, which the priest also denied, the victim has already been granted recognition benefits.
Einen zweiten Fall hatte eine betroffene Person, die anonym bleiben will, im Oktober 2022 im Bistum Essen angezeigt: Sie meldete einen mutmaßlichen sexuellen Übergriff durch Bischof Hengsbach aus dem Jahr 1967. Nach Informationen der Nachrichtenagentur dpa handelt es sich ebenfalls um eine Frau. Der aktuelle Essener Bischof Franz-Josef Overbeck erfuhr davon laut Mitteilung im März dieses Jahres, ließ auch im Herkunftsbistum von Hengsbach in Paderborn recherchieren und entschied sich danach für eine Offenlegung aller Vorwürfe, wie es hieß.
Der 1988 zum Kardinal erhobene Hengsbach war bis zu seinem Tod einer der bekanntesten Geistlichen Deutschlands. Er war unter anderem Mitgründer des bischöflichen Hilfswerkes Adveniat und mehr als 17 Jahre lang deutscher Militärbischof.