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CATHOLIC CHURCH

German bishop resigns over Catholic church’s ‘failure’ in abuse scandal

One of Germany's leading Catholic bishops, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, said Friday he had offered Pope Francis his resignation over the church's "institutional and systemic failure" in its handling of child sex abuse scandals.

German bishop resigns over Catholic church's 'failure' in abuse scandal
Reinhard Marx delivering a Christmas Mass in December 2020 in Munich. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Tobias Hase

“It is important to me to share the responsibility for the catastrophe of the sexual abuse by Church officials over the past decades,” said Marx in a letter to the pope dated May 21st and published Friday by his archdiocese in Munich.

Investigations and reports had “consistently shown there have been many personal failures and administrative mistakes but also institutional or ‘systemic’ failure,” added Marx, who was president of the German Bishops’ Conference from 2012 to 2020.

Slamming colleagues who “refuse to believe there is a shared responsibility in this respect”, he said the Church was at “a dead end”.

He added that he hoped his resignation would set a sign for a new beginning for the Church. According to the diocese’s statement, the pope had granted permission for the letter to be published and told Marx to remain in his role until he received an answer.

Germany’s Catholic church has been rocked by a string of reports in recent years which have laid bare the extent of sexual abuse of children by clergymen.

A study commissioned by the German Bishops’ Conference under Marx’s presidency and released in 2018 showed that 1,670 clergymen had committed some type of sexual attack against 3,677 minors, mostly boys, between 1946 and 2014.

However, its authors said the actual number of victims was almost certainly much higher.

Last month, the pope sent two envoys to the diocese of Cologne to
investigate “possible mistakes” in its reaction to reports on child sex abuse.

Known as a prominent advocate for reform, Marx has previously apologised on behalf of the Church to the victims of sexual abuse.

In April, he turned down the Federal Cross of Merit amid criticism from victims’ groups over the Church’s response to the scandals.

Germany’s Catholic Church counted 22.6 million members in 2019 and it is still the largest religion in the country, but the number is two million fewer than in 2010 when the first major wave of paedophile abuse cases came to light.

READ ALSO: Over 300 victims ‘sexually abused through Germany’s top diocese’ in Cologne

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RELIGION

Pope rejects German bishop’s offer to quit over abuse scandal

Pope Francis on Thursday rejected an offer by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, a top German bishop, to resign over the mishandling of sexual abuse and cover-up scandals.

Pope rejects German bishop's offer to quit over abuse scandal
Marx following a service in Haar, Bavaria on Sunday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Matthias Balk

“Continue as you propose (in your pastoral work) but as Archbishop of
Munich and Freising,” the pope wrote to Marx, referring to the position he was offering to vacate.

Marx announced earlier this month that he had offered the pope his
resignation over the church’s “institutional and systemic failure” in handling
child sex abuse scandals.

READ ALSO: German bishop resigns over Catholic Church’s ‘failure’ in abuse scandal

The stunning decision came after the church in Germany, like in many places elsewhere, was shaken by allegations of wide-ranging abuse by clergymen against minors.

In his letter, the pope agreed with Marx in calling the clerical sexual
abuse scandals “a catastrophe” and the way the Catholic Church dealt with them “until recently”.

“The entire Church is in crisis because of the abuse issue” and “the Church
cannot proceed without tackling this crisis. The policy of burying the head in
the sand leads nowhere,” he wrote.

In his original letter to the pope dated May 21st and published on June 4th by his archdiocese, Marx said: “It is important to me to share the responsibility for the catastrophe of the sexual abuse by Church officials over the past decades.”

Investigations and reports had “consistently shown there have been many
personal failures and administrative mistakes but also institutional or
‘systemic’ failure,” added Marx, who was president of the German Bishops’
Conference from 2012 to 2020.

Slamming colleagues who “refuse to believe there is a shared responsibility
in this respect”, he said the Church was at “a dead end”.

Marx — who was never personally accused of abuse or cover up, and who
would have remained a cardinal even if Francis had allowed him to quit as
archbishop — added that he hoped his resignation would offer a new beginning for the Church.

Speaking to journalists, he confirmed the pope had given him permission to
publish the letter and that he would continue in his role until he received a
response to his offer.

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