The Archdiocese of Cologne has threatened and censored members of the archdiocesan Catholic University Community reportedly because of their criticisms of Church authority and Catholic sexual morality.

– Repercussions for attacks on “intolerable” behaviour of Church officials

As the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper reported November 19, the Cologne archdiocese, led by Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, switched off the website of the Catholic University Community (KHG) earlier this month and also allegedly threatened employees of the KHG pastoral team with consequences under labour law.

According to the Cologne archdiocese, the page went offline because an update scheduled for early November was unable to be carried out.

But German Catholic media are reporting that the real reason for the censorship and threats is a 2019 KHG position paper which criticised the “intolerable” behaviour of Church officials and proposed 15 steps for Church reform.

Though the KHG website was down for a period, it is now back online as of this Thursday morning, but without any trace of the offending position paper.

– Catholic leaders “backward and evasive” in debates over celibacy, women, LGBT people

The controversial KHG position paper, published in the winter of last year, argued that Catholic leaders from Popes Benedict and Francis to representatives of the German Bishops’ Conference to officials in the Cologne archdiocese have repeatedly hurt people because of their “backward and evasive” attitude to debates in the Church and wider society.

The KHG also criticised the Church’s immobility on compulsory clerical celibacy, its “structural discrimination of women” and its mistreatment of LGBT+ people, and affirmed that all of those problems make necessary a thorough renewal of Catholic leadership structures, power relations and sexual morals.

Those KHG criticisms of the institutional Church also made their way into a KHG brochure outlining its activities for the present semester, before the archdiocese demanded that it print the brochure again without the polemical content.

In response to the KHG criticisms, the Cologne archdiocese said that it was prepared to engage in a critical examination of Church structures and practice, but alleged that the tone of the KHG paper made constructive debate impossible.

The archdiocese has also confirmed that it is currently involved in talks with KHG staff in an attempt to repair what it said was the broken trust that now exists between employer and employees.

In the meantime, the KHG paper and brochure have both been republished on the website of the Cologne Evangelical Student Community, which expressed “solidarity” with the Catholic University Community amid its conflict with the archdiocese.

– German Society of Catholic Journalists warns Cardinal Woelki on abuse crisis: “Patience and trust have been used up”

With the ongoing conflict with the KHG, the problems keep piling up for Cologne archbishop Cardinal Woelki, who has been under pressure for weeks over his mismanagement of a report into clerical sex abuse and cover-ups in his archdiocese.

At the end of October, Woelki announced that he was delaying for the second time the publication of the report, commissioned by the archdiocese in 2018 and carried out by an independent legal firm. The report’s contents were also to be revised by other independent legal experts, the cardinal said.

Woelki’s decision to hold back again on publication – originally slated for March this year – was heavily criticised by youth and lay bodies in the archdiocese, and has now been denounced by the German Society of Catholic Journalists (GKP).

On abuse and negligence in the Church, “patience and trust have been used up”, the GKP warned Woelki November 18, adding that the public has a right “to the whole truth” on the crisis of priestly pedophilia.

For his part, Woelki referred to the abuse crisis in Cologne November 19, after the Zeit newspaper published extracts of the report the cardinal is refusing to release.

Those extracts had to do with the case of a 87-year-old priest, A., who despite having two convictions for child abuse ministered in three dioceses over decades until Woelki finally barred him in 2019.

The case of priest A. reveals “a series of serious mistakes over decades” on the part of Church officials, Woelki admitted, demanding that those behind the “absolutely irresponsible” decision to keep A. in ministry be “uncovered and named”.

More on Novena on the controversies in the Cologne archdiocese under Cardinal Woelki:

Laypeople issue ultimatum to Cardinal Woelki: “Put the truth on the table” with regard to abuse, cover-ups in Cologne archdiocese

Catholic youth call on Cardinal Woelki to resign for burying report into clergy sex abuse cover-ups

Whistleblower priest blasts Cologne archdiocese, Cardinal Woelki for failure to publish report on Church abuse cover-ups

Catholic women protest Archbishop of Cologne Cardinal Woelki’s refusal to publish report on Church sex abuse, cover-ups

More news on the Church in Germany


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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.