International

Head of Germany’s Catholic Church offers resignation over ‘catastrophe of sexual abuse’

02 March 2020, Rhineland-Palatinate, Mainz: Cardinal Reinhard Marx, President of the Bishops' Conference, gives a sermon at the opening service of the Plenary Assembly in the Cathedral. The German Bishops' Conference, which meets twice a year, is the governing body of the Catholic Church in Germany. Photo: Andreas Arnold/dpa (Photo by Andreas Arnold/picture alliance via Getty Images via CNN)

 (CNN) — The head of the Catholic Church in Germany has offered to resign as the Archbishop of Munich, saying he shared “responsibility for the catastrophe of sexual abuse” by church officials.

“In essence, it is important to me to share the responsibility for the catastrophe of the sexual abuse by Church officials over the past decades,” Cardinal Reinhard Marx wrote to Pope Francis in a letter sent on May 21 that was published Friday.

“The investigations and reports of the last ten years have consistently shown that there have been many personal failures and administrative mistakes but also institutional or ‘systemic’ failure,” the letter continued.

Pope Francis has not yet accepted Marx’s resignation, and the Archbishop has been told to remain in post until a decision is made, a statement from the Archdiocese in Munich said. The statement also noted that Marx has “repeatedly considered resigning from office in recent months.”

“It is painful for me to witness the severe damage to the bishops’ reputation in the ecclesiastical and secular perception which may even be at its lowest,” Marx said in the letter. “I feel that through remaining silent, neglecting to act and over-focusing on the reputation of the Church I have made myself personally guilty and responsible.”

The news comes amid a growing uproar among the German faithful over abuse. Last week, the Pope sent two senior foreign bishops to investigate the Archdiocese of Cologne, Germany’s largest, over its handling of abuse cases, Reuters reported.

In 2018, a report from Germany’s Catholic Church admitted to “at least” 3,677 cases of child sex abuse by the clergy between 1946 and 2014, local media reported at the time. The report, which took four years to assemble, found the victims were mostly boys, more than half of whom were aged 13 or younger. Every sixth case involved a rape and at least 1,670 clergy were involved.

At a Vatican summit in February 2019, Marx admitted that documents that could have contained proof of clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church were destroyed or never drawn up.

“Files that could have documented the terrible deeds and named those responsible were destroyed or not even created,” Marx said at the summit.

“The stipulated procedures and processes for the prosecution offenses were deliberately not complied with … such standard practices will make it clear that it is not transparency which damages the church, but rather the acts of abuse committed, the lack of transparency, or the ensuing coverup.”

At a later press conference during the summit, Marx said that the information about destroying files came from a study commissioned by German bishops in 2014. The study was “scientific” and did not name the particular church leaders or dioceses in Germany that destroyed the files.

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