Heightened tension during meeting with Archbishop of Cologne

Archdiocese of Cologne crisis

The pastoral council of the Archdiocese of Cologne met in mid-June with their local ordinary, Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, and the mood was particularly tense.

The 75 priests and lay Catholics who make up the parish council met just days after the conclusion of an apostolic visitation of the archdiocese.

The Vatican investigation of the largest archdiocese in Germany had been ordered by Pope Francis.

The meeting also followed a demonstration by a group of Catholics who walked from their parish some 30 km to demand that the cardinal resign.

The cause of the tension relates to Cardinal Woelki’s refusal to publish an independent report on sex abuse in the archdiocese.

He had previously vowed to make the report public.

The 64-year-old cardinal set up a victims’ council and commissioned a law firm to write up the report. But at a meeting with the council in October 2020, he backtracked and said he would not allow the report to be published.

Patrick Bauer, one of the council’s members, said it was a “terrible meeting” that left the victims feeling betrayed.

To show his disappointment, he resigned from the victims’ council. Soon others followed.

The cardinal then commissioned a second report, which was published last March.

But this has done nothing to ease tensions.

“All the people mentioned in the second report were mentioned in the first,” said Bauer, who had access to both files.

“The only difference is that the first report looked at the systemic dimension of the abuse and its cover-up. The second one only looked at individual cases,” said another person who also saw both documents.

Many argue that this is the real reason why Woelki decided to publish only the second report.

The ongoing crisis surrounding Cardinal Woelki comes when the Catholic church in Cologne sees members leaving in large numbers.

Discontent is largely fuelled by paedophilia scandals. But, many German Catholics are also demanding radical changes for a more inclusive church.

In Cologne’s administrative court is an office where dozens of people come every day to officially leave the Catholic church.

Followers of all faiths in Germany are required to pay a tax to finance the religious institutions they belong to. This is registered by tax authorities.

The demand to leave the Catholic Church is so high, that the deregistration office has increased the number of appointments it offers from 600 to 1800 a month.

In defiance of Vatican doctrine, the blessing of homosexual unions is one of the expressions of a growing reform movement in Germany.

There is also a growing demand for equal rights for women in the church.

In the light of growing discontent within its institutions, the bishops’ conference and the central committee of German Catholics are exploring ways to reform the church. In 2019, they launched a vast debate referred to as the ‘Synodal Path’. Their conclusions are due in 2022.

The winds of change are blowing through the Catholic church in Germany.

That’s why there is a campaign for reform and also for more plurality in the Church. Followers want more openness, and all believers want to stop more people leaving.

Only the future can tell whether these reforms will come to fruition.


La Croix International


Additional reading

News category: World.

Tags: , , ,