Roman Catholic Church in Germany in crisis – leading Cardinal tenders his resignation to the Pope

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the Archbishop of Munich and Freising and one of the most well-known and influential leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Germany has written to Pope Francis tendering his resignation due to his part in dealing with sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church in Germany.

In his letter to Pope Francis Cardinal Marx stated that “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,”

Cardinal Marx went on to say that the Roman Catholic Church in Germany is in crisis and he had formed the view that there must be personal consequences for what he described as “systemic” failure in dealing with abuse, he said that “It is also not right to simply link these problems largely on past times and former Church officials.”

This development comes only days after Pope Francis ordered an inquiry into the handling of abuse allegations in Germany’s largest Archdiocese, the Archdiocese of Cologne. The Pope has sent two senior foreign bishops to investigate the handling of allegations of sexual abuse in the Cologne by Archbishop Woelki who has come in for substantial criticism in respect of how he has dealt with historic allegations of child sex abuse and also his decision not to disclose an earlier report into wrongdoings by priests because of what has been described as methodological shortcomings.

A report into child abuse in the Archdiocese, which was published in March this year, found that hundreds of children have been sexually abused since 1975 in the Archdiocese and in many of the cases reviewed high ranking officials neglected their duties. The new 800 page report, which was compiled by a German law firm and based on church files found that 314 children, mostly boys under the age of 14, were sexually abused between 1975 and 2018 by 202 alleged perpetrators. The focus of this investigation wasn’t on the abuse itself but on whether the church including former and current archbishops, vicars-general and other high-ranking church officials had responded correctly to accusations of abuse.

The Papal Nuncio to Germany said that “The Holy See’s delegates will form a comprehensive picture of the complex pastoral situation in the Archbishopric and consider any possible failings by Cardinal Woelki and his excellency Stefan Hesse, Archbishop of Hamburg.”

The Archdiocese of Cologne is the largest community of Roman Catholics in Germany and one of the world’s richest diocese.

It is reported that thousands are quitting the Roman Catholic Church in Germany in protest of how the Church in Germany is handling abuse cases. The membership of the Catholic Church, which remains the country’s largest denomination, has fallen to 22.6 million in 2019, 2 million fewer than in 2010 when the first scandals relating to child abuse in the Church in Germany were disclosed.


Written by Sharon Moohan at BLM (sharon.moohan@blmlaw.com)

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