Leading German Cardinal Reinhard Marx has come under fire for donating €50,000 of Catholic Church funds to United4Rescue, a coalition of NGOs engaged in migrant sea rescues.
In an open letter published Thursday, Stephen Brandner, deputy federal spokesman for the populist Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) party, asked whether the president of the German Bishops’ Conference had received approval from the church community to donate €50,000 to an organization that encourages people smuggling.
“According to media reports, you have donated 50,000 euros from your archbishopric’s funds for a proposed vessel of the ‘United 4 Rescue’ alliance,” the letter begins. “I am interested in the reasons for this decision and the extent to which it was coordinated within the religious community.”
The parliamentarian also requests “information about whether and to what extent you donate from your private funds (your monthly payments from tax funds should be considerable) for this purpose, since it seems to be a matter of personal concern to you.”
“Why do you also use archdiocese funds? Are there no more important tasks? You are also welcome to give me information about which projects you also support from your private and bishopric funds,” he writes.
“I wonder whether my church taxes, which I have been paying in significant amounts for some 30 years, will be used for this purpose,” he continues, “even though I am not willing to support traffickers and it is my belief that the use of so-called ‘rescue boats’ means that more and more people embark on the life-threatening route across the sea to Europe, where they hope for a better life.”
“How can you advocate supporting an incentive system that often leads to deaths and considerable tensions in our society?” he concludes.
The United4Rescue alliance is backed by the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), which recently announced its intention to send its own rescue ship to the Mediterranean.
Another MP from the AfD, Johannes Huber, wrote on Twitter: “Marx misappropriates €50,000 from church tax money. In so doing, he is supporting the business of traffickers.”
According to the archdiocese of Munich-Freising, funds for the donation came from a special part of the archdiocesan budget earmarked for the cardinal to donate to charitable causes.