“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.