Dhe future of the “Cologne University for Catholic Theology” (KHKT) is still in the stars. As the press office of the Archdiocese of Cologne announced at the weekend after a meeting of the Church Tax and Economic Council (KiWi), the financing of the university, which was founded in 2019, is only secured for the coming 2023 budget year. After that, the “Bishop’s Special Needs Fund,” BB Fund, will be exhausted—although it should be sufficient to fund the six-year start-up period.
Woelki, who controls the KHKT as Grand Chancellor and Chairman of the Board of Trustees, has so far not found any major donors who could even cover the running costs of his university project, which are said to be a good three million euros a year. The endowment capital is also a long time coming, from the income from which at least twelve full-time professorships and the excellence programs promised to the state of North Rhine-Westphalia could be financed in the long term.
This is not the only reason why the CDU-led state government has given up its initially benevolent attitude towards the KHKT. In the meantime, Woelki is openly striving to permanently transfer the priestly training from the state Catholic theological faculty of the University of Bonn to his university. There was no talk of this in 2019 with the country. Whether this step represented a violation of the Prussian Concordat, which regulates the relationship between state and church, is disputed among lawyers.
Woelki wants to force financing
What is indisputable, however, is that Woelki does not see the “ecclesiastical nature” of the theology taught in Bonn as guaranteed. With this assessment, the cardinal has not only angered the University of Bonn. The University of Cologne, where Catholic religion teachers are trained, also does not want to cooperate with the KHKT, which has meanwhile been ridiculed as a “madrassa” – i.e. an Islamist Koran school. The state government therefore has no choice but to insist on compliance with the Prussian Concordat and not to give the Archbishop of Cologne any subsidies of any kind.
In view of the tight budget situation at the university, which also stands in the way of the re-accreditation of the master’s degree in Catholic theology, Woelki declared the KHKT to be a “pastoral focus”. In this way, he wants to force the KiWi, who is responsible for approving the diocese budget, to approve church tax funds for his project. For the time being, the board has not followed him.
From the approval of the business plan for the coming year, including the subsidy for the KHKT from the BB fund, it cannot be concluded that financing from church tax funds will take place “automatically” from 2024, it is now said. The prerequisites for this are “reliable medium-term financial planning” and an “appropriate business plan”. This must also include a closure scenario. “In addition,” the press office continued, “the committee expects the submission of a current vote from the pastoral committees, the responsible specialist department and the archbishop on the KHKT as a basis for further consultations”.
Woelki also has little luck with his speakers. Allegedly without the knowledge of the cardinal, the current incumbent, Jürgen Kleikamp, recently threatened an employee with consequences under labor law in a press release. After an uproar in the diocese leadership, Woelki will part with the fifth highly paid “communications director” in eight years at the end of the year.