The Archbishop of Cologne, one of Germany’s largest Catholic dioceses, expressed disappointment on Friday that employees used work computers to try to access pornographic websites.
Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki’s statement came after the city’s Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper reported that a list from the archdiocese showed more than 1,000 attempts to access such sites from its computers. He said dozens of employees, including senior clerks, had made such attempts.
The Archdiocese has confirmed the existence of a list. He said his IT service provider regularly checks whether its firewalls are repelling attempts to access sites with risky content such as violence, pornography and drugs, and that they are not intended to check the usage patterns of individuals.
He said the check revealed “no indication of criminally relevant conduct”.
“It disappointed me that employees were trying to access pornographic pages using devices that our archdiocese has made available to them for their work – even though the firewalls have gone off,” Woelki said. .
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“To some, porn consumption may seem harmless,” he added. “But I agree with Pope Francis, who condemns it and warns of its dangers, including the violation of human dignity.”
The Archbishop said he asked that the incidents be reviewed as soon as he hears about them. He added that the archdiocese has many “committed and reliable” employees.
The archdiocese said its internal investigation showed that Woelki himself was not one of the “users of the offending sites”, German news agency dpa reported.
Cologne prosecutors told dpa they have the archdiocese’s list and are reviewing it, but so far there is no suspicion of a crime and no investigation.
The issue has come to light as the archdiocese navigates an unprecedented crisis of confidence centered on Woelki, a Tory who has become a divisive figure in the German church.
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In 2020, Woelki kept secret a report he commissioned on how local church officials responded when priests were accused of sexual abuse, citing legal concerns and infuriating many local Catholics. A second report, published in March 2021, noted 75 cases in which senior officials failed in their duties.
The report absolves Woelki of any negligence of his legal duty to victims of abuse. He later said he had made mistakes in previous cases involving allegations of sexual abuse.
Two papal envoys were sent to Cologne to investigate possible errors made by senior officials in handling cases. Their report led the Vatican to grant Woelki a “spiritual timeout” and criticize major miscommunications.
In March 2022, after his return, the Archbishop said he submitted a resignation offer. Francis has yet to respond.