“Porn row” hits German Catholic bookseller, CEO explains mix-up

By Alexandra Hudson
November 12, 2011

A woman reads a book in front of a huge bookshelf at the book fair in Frankfurt October 12, 2011. The Frankfurt Book Fair is the world's largest trade fair for books runs until October 16. This year's guest of honour is the country of Iceland. REUTERS/Alex Domanski

A major bookseller owned by Germany’s Roman Catholic Church has had its knuckles rapped by its clerical proprietors in the wake of accusations it was making profits from selling erotic books, and has amended its online shop to fix the loophole that made the disputed products available.

Weltbild, which has sales of 1.7 billion euros and is Germany’s second largest online book seller, found itself in the eye of a media storm after claims the search term “erotic” in its online store produced roughly 2,500 products.

On Monday Pope Benedict even seemed to be referring to the row when he told the new German ambassador to the Vatican that he would make sure the Catholic Church in Germany was more decisive in fighting prostitution and the spread of erotic material and pornography over the Internet.

The firm explained that while erotic titles are not in its catalogue, its shops or in the parts of the online bookshop it assembles itself, the search function of the site tapped a national wholesalers’ stock, where the titles were found.

“We are limiting the titles available through the database, by removing those which may be of an unsuitable nature,” chief executive Carel Halff told Reuters. “We make use of the same database as all other German book shops, and it is within this large trade assortment that the titles in question were found,” he added.

Weltbild said in a statement that recent media headlines such as “Catholic Church makes a fortune with pornography” were untrue and defamatory. It had never offered pornography and the share of revenue generated by books found under the search term “erotic” accounted for less than 0.017 percent of revenue.

The company has belonged to the Catholic Church for 40 years, and is run for profit. The row has sparked debate about Church-owned companies and how these should operate.

Germany’s Catholic Church has said little in public about the affair, although the bishops conference said in a statement Weltbild “bears a special social responsibility” and that management had been encouraged “to consistently live up to its responsibilities”.

 

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It was only 2,500 products-that’s easy to miss! Secularization of church and state is ruining the world folks! At least tax the heck out of porn, alcohol and gambling! Also, on-line, free porn for kids worldwide is an International disgrace and I don’t see many folks speaking up-where’s the womens groups? Yes, most of it comes out of the good old USA-no wonder others want to blow us up!

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