A Vatican official has stepped down after being accused of sexual abuse. Herman Geissler maintains his innocence, but has resigned from his position as chief of staff in the Congregation of the Doctrine for the Faith, according to a statement by the Holy See.
The Roman Curia is the central administrative authority in the Catholic Church. The Congregation of the Doctrine for the Faith is one of nine departments of the Curia. It consists of three offices:
A former nun accused a priest, whose identity she did not reveal, of soliciting her for sex while in the confessional. Although she did not mention the priest’s name, she mentioned that he was currently a section leader in the Congregation of the Doctrine for the Faith. Several news outlets deduced that the priest was Geissler because he was the only one of the three leaders who was a member of the nun’s former religious order.
According to the former nun, Geissler requested to be her confessor and used his position of authority to subject her to sexual abuse while she was in the confessional. The former nun says she reported the abuse to her superior in 2014, but despite admitting his misconduct, the priest was allowed to retain his high-ranking position in the church.
According to official church law, solicitation in a confessional is an especially egregious offense. The Vatican considers it to be a “grave delict” and, according to the Code of Canon Law, priests found guilty may be subject to suspension, prohibition, privation, or dismissal from the clerical state, depending on the gravity of the delict.
Although Geissler asserts his innocence, the former nun claims he admitted to the 2014 accusations, asked for pardon, and was allowed to keep his position. The former nun notes that Geissler’s resignation does not comprise a penalty under canon law.
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