Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the former president of the German Bishops’ Conference, wrote a letter to Francis in May to be relieved of his duties due to “Failure” of the German Catholic Church in the face of “The catastrophe of sexual abuse”.
But in a response released by the Vatican on Thursday, June 10, Pope Francis said that if he understood the motivation behind the German cardinal’s offer to resign, he would not accept it.
“Dear brother, thank you for your courage. It is a Christian courage (…) which is not afraid of being humiliated in the face of the terrible reality of sin ”, the Pope wrote to him in his letter published in German and Spanish. “Taking up the crisis, personally and in community, is the only fruitful way”, believes François, for whom “The ostrich policy leads nowhere”.
“The sad story of sexual abuse” is a « catastrophe » for the Church, continued Francis, who urged all bishops to ask themselves: “What should I do in the face of this disaster? “ He called for a “Reform” who “Is not based on words but attitudes”, for’“Assume reality whatever the consequence”.
“Silences, omissions, giving too much importance to the prestige of institutions only lead to personal and historical failure and lead us to live with ‘skeletons in the closet'”, again assaulted the sovereign pontiff.
Archbishop of Munich and Freising for fourteen years, Reinhard Marx, 67, had recently refused Germany’s highest honor, the Federal Cross of Merit, which German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier wanted to give him. He was president of the German Bishops’ Conference until last year, when he refused to run for a second term.
He is part of a small council of cardinals advising the pope on the reforms of the Roman curia. He also coordinates the Vatican Council for the Economy responsible for overseeing the sound financial management of the Holy See.
In 2019, during an unprecedented summit at the Vatican of presidents of episcopal conferences devoted to the scandals of sexual abuse of minors, Reinhard Marx was at the forefront of demanding more transparency on the issue. The year before, he had apologized to the German Church after a report revealed sexual abuse of more than 3,600 minors over decades.
His resignation request came as Pope Francis ordered an investigation at the end of May into the handling of cases of sexual assault of minors in the diocese of Cologne, the largest in Germany, shaken by a serious crisis for months.
In recent years, the exodus from the German Church has accelerated, with liberal worshipers protesting not only against abuse but also against conservative attitudes towards same-sex relationships. The German Church has a disproportionate influence globally, in part because of its wealth: taxes paid by members and collected by the government make it the richest in the world.