VATICAN CITY — An Austrian priest and theologian has resigned from his position at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), amid charges that he made sexual advances toward a woman in the confessional several years ago.
The priest maintains his innocence.
Father Hermann Geissler, 53, has been an official within the CDF since 1993, and in 2009, he became the head of the congregation’s teaching office.
A statement released Jan. 29 said that Father Geissler “affirms that the accusation made against him is untrue and asks that the canonical process already initiated continue. He also reserves the right for possible civil legal action.”
Alessandro Gisotti, interim director of the Holy See Press Office, confirmed to CNA that allegations against Father Geissler are being examined by the CDF, which is the Vatican office charged with reviewing allegations of this kind.
CDF prefect Cardinal Luis Ladaria accepted the priest’s resignation, which was submitted Jan. 28. The statement said Father Geissler decided to step down “to limit the damage already done to the congregation and to his community.”
Father Geissler is a prominent scholar of Blessed John Henry Newman and a member of the Familia Spiritualis Opus, informally known as “Das Werk.”
The accusations against him became public at the end of September, when a (now-former) member of Das Werk, Doris Wagner, claimed in a lengthy piece in the German newspaper Die Ziet that she had been sexually harassed in the confessional by a member of the religious community she then belonged to, identified in the article as “Hermann G.”
Wagner again spoke of the accusations last November, saying at a conference in Rome that she had received unwanted sexual advances and been “groomed” for sex by “a priest working to this day as capo ufficio at the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith,” according to La Croix International.
The solicitation of a sin against the Sixth Commandment within the context of confession is considered in Church law to be a “grave delict,” or offence, for a which a priest can be dismissed from the clerical state.