German Cardinal Reinhard Marx Offers to Resign Over ‘Catastrophe’ of Sexual Abuse by Catholic Church Officials

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, chairman of the German Bishop’s Conference holds a news conference in Berlin, Germany, October 16, 2019. REUTERS/Michele Tantussi

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, a leading figure in Germany’s Roman Catholic Church and a member of the Pope Francis’s advisory council, said on Friday that he had offered his resignation in a personal gesture to take responsibility for sexual abuses by priests over the past decades.

Speaking to reporters outside of the offices of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, the cardinal, who has not been accused of abuse, said he had been considering the decision for months. After spending the weeks leading up to Easter in prayer and reflection, he wrote a letter to the pope, asking to be relieved of his duties.

“It is important to me to share the responsibility for the catastrophe of the sexual abuse by church officials over the past decades,” the cardinal wrote in his letter, which was sent to the Vatican on May 21. In it, he said that he believed Catholics were at a “dead end” over their handling of abuses, which first came to light in Germany in 2002 and culminated in the release of a report by the German Bishops’ Conference in 2018, documenting the sexual abuse of almost 3,700 children over seven decades.

During a news conference after the release of that study, the cardinal, who was serving as the head of the conference, was asked whether any bishops had resigned over the findings. None had. Cardinal Marx said on Friday that the question had stayed with him and led to his decision to try to lead by example.

“I believe one possibility to express this willingness to take responsibility is my resignation,” the cardinal wrote in his letter, which was released by his archdiocese in agreement with Francis. “In doing so, I may be able to send a personal signal for a new beginning, for a new awakening of the church, not only in Germany. . I would like to show that it is not the institution that stands in the foreground, but the mission of the Gospel.”

He added: “I therefore strongly request you to accept this resignation.”

Cardinal Marx told reporters that Francis had agreed to publication of his letter, but had asked that he continue to carry out his duties until the pope decided whether to accept it. The Vatican had no further comment on Friday.

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SOURCE: The New York Times, Melissa Eddy