10 December 2021, The Tablet

Cologne cardinal spent €2.8m on lawyers' fees

Cologne cardinal spent €2.8m on lawyers' fees

Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne, Germany, is pictured during the second synodal assembly in Frankfurt Oct. 2, 2021.
CNS photo/Julia Steinbrecht, KNA

Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, who is currently on leave of absence at the Pope’s wish, spent €2.8m (£2.4m) on financial experts, media attorneys and communication consultants between 2019 and 2021.

In stark comparison, over the last 11 years since 2010, Cologne archdiocese spent less than half that sum, namely €1.5m (£1.3m), on compensation for the victims of clerical sexual abuse.

The Apostolic Administrator of the archdiocese in Cardinal Woelki’s absence, Bishop Rolf Steinhäuser, published the expenses report on 4 December. It reveals that the first report on clerical sexual abuse in the arch-diocese of Cologne, which Cardinal Woelki still refuses to publish, cost €757,000 and the second €516,000. The cardinal spent €820,000 on communica- tion consultants and a further €600,000 on lawyers at €460 per hour. Displeasure with the cardinal rose after he announced in October 2020 that he would keep the first report under lock and key.

“It was a painful and excessively expensive process,” Cardinal Woelki’s vicar general Markus Hofmann said. Carrying out an independent investigation had broken new ground for the arch- diocese. It had learned the hard way and “paid dearly”.

The money to cover the costs would not be taken from church tax, however, Fr Hofmann stressed. The costs would be paid for by a “Fund for the Diocesan Needs” into which clergy paid. Compensation for victims of cler- ical sexual abuse was also taken out of this fund, he explained.

After ordering an Apostolic Visitation of the Cologne archdiocese, Pope Francis admitted in the summer that Cardinal Woelki had “made big mistakes”, above all concerning communication, but was not guilty of hushing up abuse. The cardinal’s leave of absence ends on Ash Wednesday.

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