THE RC Archbishop of Munich and Freising, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, has asked Pope Francis to accept his resignation over the German Church’s handling of allegations of sexual abuse.
Cardinal Marx, who is 67 and regarded as a liberal, is a former president of the German Catholic Bishop’s Conference, and has been an outspoken presence on social issues in Germany for the past two decades.
In his letter to the Pope, dated 21 May but made public on Friday, he writes: “In essence, it is important to me to share the responsibility for the catastrophe of the sexual abuse by church officials over the past decades. . . I feel that, through remaining silent, neglecting to act, and over-focusing on the reputation of the Church, I have made myself personally guilty and responsible.”
The RC Church in Germany has been in crisis since 2010 over a series of sexual abuse scandals, he writes, exacerbated by cover-ups and inadequate investigations.
“The investigations and reports of the last ten years have consistently shown that there have been many personal failures and administrative mistakes, but also institutional or systemic failure,” Cardinal Marx writes. “The recent debates have shown that some members of the Church refuse to believe that there is a shared responsibility in this respect, and that the Church as an institution is hence also to be blamed for what has happened, and therefore disapprove of discussing reforms and renewal in the context of the sexual-abuse crisis.”
The Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, has refused to resign despite a report criticised his handling of allegations of past clerical abuse.
Cardinal Marx continues: “My impression is that we are at a dead end which — and this is my paschal hope — also has the potential of becoming a turning point.”
In a personal statement issued on Friday, the Cardinal says that Pope Francis has responded to his request, giving him permission to publish the letter, and asking him to continue his duties as a priest and bishop until a decision had been made.
“With my resignation, I would like to make clear that I am willing to personally bear responsibility not only for any mistakes I might have made but for the Church as an institution which I have helped to shape and mould over the past decades.”
Resigning had not been an easy decision to make, he says. “My service for this Church and the people does not end. However, to support a new beginning, which is necessary, I would like to bear my share in the responsibility for past events.”