German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, 67, of Munich and Freising, German submitted his resignation to Pope Francis and that news was made public on June 4, 2021. The reason Marx gave was that he is taking responsibility for the failures of the Church in handling clerical sexual abuse cases for the past 10 years and for the “many personal failures and administrative mistakes” in handling abuse allegations, “but also for the institutional or ‘systemic’ failures.” An
expert’s report of how abuse cases were handled in Marx’s Archdiocese of Munich and Freising is expected to come out this summer after many investigations. Cardinal Marx is the past president of the German bishops’ conference and one of the main leaders of the German Catholic Church’s “Synodal Path” to reform the Church regarding power held, sexual morality, the priesthood, and the role of women in the Church. Pope Francis has warned the Germans that such reforms and modernization could ultimately lead to the fragmentation of the Church. Cardinal Marx is also a member of Pope Francis’ international advisory Council of Cardinals and is coordinator of the Vatican Council for the Economy. In his statement Marx said the clerical abuse crisis obviously requires improved oversight and administrative systems, but even more it shows the need for “a renewed form of the church and a new way to live and proclaim faith today.” He said investigating how allegations were handled in the past and holding to account bishops who failed to act promptly and appropriately is important, but it is not enough. “As a bishop I have an ‘institutional responsibility’ for acts of the Church in its entirety as well as for its institutional problems and failures in the past.” He said, above all church leaders must ask themselves if the focus really is on survivors and others impacted by sexual abuse. “With my
resignation I would like to make clear that I am willing to personally bear responsibility not only for any mistakes I might have made but for the Church as an institution which I have helped to shape and mold over the past decades.” Pope Francis agreed with Cardinal Marx that Catholic leaders cannot adopt an “ostrich policy” in the face of the clerical sexual abuse crisis, but he told the Cardinal that he would not accept his resignation as head of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising. Francis wrote to Marx “If you are tempted to think that by confirming your mission and not accepting your resignation, this bishop of Rome – your brother who loves you – does not understand you, think of what Peter felt before the Lord when, in his own way, he presented him with his resignation: ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinner.’ And listen to the answer: ‘Shepherd my sheep.’” Pope Francis said true reform will require every bishop to “let the Spirit lead us to the desert of desolation, to the cross and to the resurrection. It is the path of the Spirit that we must follow, and the starting point is humble confession: We have made a mistake, we have sinned.” As a church, “we must ask for the grace of shame.”