Archbishop speaks of "catastrophe of abuse" in the Church 0:54
Pope Francis did not accept the resignation of German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, telling him in a letter to continue in his role as archbishop of Munich and Freising.
Cardinal Marx offered his resignation to the pope on Friday June 4 in a surprise announcement, saying he wanted to share the "responsibility for the catastrophe of sexual abuse" by Catholic Church officials.
"This is my answer, dear brother," Pope Francis wrote in a letter published by the Vatican on Thursday.
"Shepherd my sheep."
Head of Germany's Catholic Church offers his resignation over 'sexual abuse catastrophe'
In the letter, published in Spanish and German, Pope Francis thanked the cardinal for his courage and said that continued reform in the Catholic Church was necessary to handle sexual abuse.
"The whole Church is in crisis because of the abuse issue," Francis wrote.
"Every bishop of the Church must ask himself: what should I do in the face of this catastrophe?"
The necessary reform, Francis wrote, "does not consist of words but of attitudes that have the courage to put themselves in crisis, to assume reality regardless of the consequences."
Cardinal Marx is one of Germany's most prominent Catholic officials and a close adviser to Pope Francis.
Cardinal Reinhard Marx gives a sermon in Mainz, Germany, in March 2020.
The Church Sexual Abuse Scandal
In 2018, a report by the German Catholic Church admitted "at least" 3,677 cases of child sexual abuse by clergy between 1946 and 2014, local media reported at the time.
The report, which took four years to produce, found that the victims were mostly children, more than half of whom were 13 or younger.
Every sixth case involved a rape and at least 1,670 members of the clergy were involved.
"Investigations and reports over the last ten years have consistently shown that there have been many personal failures and clerical errors, but also institutional or 'systemic' failures," says Cardinal Marx's letter.
"I believe that one possibility to express this willingness to take responsibility is my resignation," he added, noting that he hoped his actions could be a "sign for a new beginning, for a new awakening" of the Church.
Survivor Matthias Katsch, who was abused by a priest in Berlin when he was 13, said in a statement to CNN on Friday that Marx's resignation was an "impressive step" and a "testimony of leadership."
“We have always pointed out that the crisis of abuse in the Catholic Church is not a series of isolated cases, but rather a systemic failure.
As the leader of this system, Cardinal Marx has now personally decided to take responsibility.
"It is an exemplary act, as those affected have long called for," Katsch, spokesman for the survivors group Eckiger Tisch, said in a released statement.
Katsch added that he was hopeful that Marx's move would bring initiatives supported by survivors to the fore, including establishing a truth and compensation commission for victims.
Francis allows Cardinal Marx to publish letter of resignation 1:46
Marx's resignation comes amid a growing uproar among German Catholics over abuse and a steady decline in church membership.
In early June, the pope sent two high-ranking foreign bishops to investigate the Archdiocese of Cologne, Germany's largest, for its handling of abuse cases, Reuters reported.
"I will face possible errors and failures in individual cases to be investigated in detail that were committed during my tenure and that will then have to be reviewed and evaluated according to objective criteria," Marx wrote in his letter.
A report on abuses in the cardinal's diocese in Munich will be delivered later this year.
Earlier this week, the Pope issued the most extensive revision of the Catholic Church's law in four decades, insisting that bishops take action against clergymen who abuse minors and vulnerable adults, commit fraud or attempt to ordain women, it reported. Reuters.
At a Vatican summit in February 2019, Marx admitted that documents that could have contained evidence of sexual abuse by clergy in the Catholic Church were destroyed or never redacted.
"The archives that could have documented the terrible events and named those responsible were destroyed or not even created," Marx said at the summit.
In a subsequent press conference during the summit, Marx said the information on the destruction of archives came from a study commissioned by the German bishops in 2014. The study was "scientific" and did not mention church leaders or dioceses in Germany who destroyed the archives.
In April this year, Marx told Germany's President Frank-Walter Steinmeier that he would not feel comfortable accepting the "federal cross of merit," the highest state tribute for individual services to the nation, as survivors of abuse they would have found offensive.