Vatican court acquits priest of soliciting in confessional

The Vatican Supreme Court has acquitted an Austrian priest accused of making sexual advances during confession.

Father Hermann Geissler who formerly worked at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith resigned from his post in January after allegations against him went public.

He has always maintained his innocence.

The day he resigned, the congregation issued a request for a canonical investigation and penal measures enacted.

A five-member group from the Court was was established to investigate the allegations.

After a meeting last week, the investigators “issued the decree of acquittal of the accused”.

They said they could not prove the crime “with the required moral certainty” and, “after a thorough examination of the case,” determined that Geissler was innocent.

The investigators said “the configuration of the alleged serious offence” was not proven “with the requisite moral certainty” after a “careful examination of the case”.

Geissler, who is member of the German community “The Work” (“Das Werk”), or “Spiritual Family Work” (“Familia Spiritualis Opus”), had been accused by a former nun of this community for alleged “advances” in the confessional.

The former nun, Doris Wagner-Reisinger, a former member of Das Werk community, spoke of having unwanted advances from a member of the Vatican’s doctrine office at a November 2018 women’s event in Rome.

In January, she told media that in 2014 she reported Geissler to officials in the congregation, saying the alleged encounter happened in 2009.

The Vatican announcement may make waves in Germany and Austria, given comments on the case Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna made to Wagner-Reisinger that led many to conclude he accepted her claim.

However, Schönborn said his comment to Wagner-Reisinger was not “a legal act,” and therefore bore no weight on the guilt or innocence of the parties. Although Schönborn said he trusts what Wagner-Reisinger recounted, “I am not a judge who must decide in a case of law”.

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