Archbishop of Cologne voices disappointment over employees’ attempted access to inappropriate websites

Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, the archbishop of Cologne, a significant Catholic diocese in Germany, expressed his disappointment on Friday regarding the use of work computers by employees in an attempt to access pornographic websites. This statement follows a report by the Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper, which revealed that more than 1,000 attempts to access such sites were recorded on the archdiocese’s computers. The list indicated that several employees, including senior clergy members, were involved in these attempts.

The archdiocese confirmed the existence of the list and clarified that its IT service provider regularly examines firewalls to deter access to websites containing explicit content, violence, and drugs. However, this process is not intended to monitor individuals’ browsing habits. The archdiocese stated that the investigation did not uncover any indications of criminal behavior.

Cardinal Woelki expressed his disappointment at the incident and aligned his views with Pope Francis, who condemns pornography and highlights its potential harm, especially in terms of violating human dignity. Woelki mentioned that he initiated an examination of the incidents as soon as he became aware of them and emphasized the presence of committed and trustworthy employees within the archdiocese.

The archbishop clarified that the internal investigation did not implicate him as a user of the questionable sites. Cologne prosecutors have received the list from the archdiocese for examination, although no suspicion of criminal activity or investigation has emerged so far.

The incident emerges amid a crisis of confidence within the archdiocese, centered around Cardinal Woelki. The archbishop’s conservative stance has divided the German church. His handling of reports regarding sexual abuse allegations involving priests has garnered significant criticism. Despite submitting an offer to resign, Pope Francis has yet to make a decision regarding Woelki’s future.