German cardinal, Pope’s adviser, proposes to resign following “catastrophe” of child sexual abuse

Top line

German cardinal Reinhard marx offered to step down on Friday due to the church’s failure to properly handle cases of sexual abuse, following several reports of widespread abuse by clergy over several decades.


Marx offered to resign in a letter to the pope dated May 21, detailing his dismay at widespread reports that clergy have abused minors for decades, but he told German media that the pontiff had failed answered again.

Marx, 67, who served as president of the German Bishops’ Conference from 2012-2020, wrote in the letter that investigations into church sex scandals have been marred by “a lot of personal failures and administrative errors , but also institutional or systemic failures “.

Marx also criticized church colleagues who “refuse to believe that there is shared responsibility” for allegations of sexual abuse and warned that the church was “at an impasse.”

Marx, who serves as Archbishop of Munich and Freising. said the pope had given him permission to write the letter and that he would continue in his role as bishop until the pontiff accepts his resignation.

Crucial quote

“It is important for me to share the responsibility for the catastrophe of sexual abuse committed by church officials over the past decades,” Marx wrote in a letter to the Pope released by the Archdiocese of Munich on Friday.

Key context

As in many other countries, including the United States, Australia and Ireland, the German Catholic Church has been shocked by reports of sexual abuse of minors by the clergy for decades. A commissioned study by the German Bishops’ Conference and published in September 2018 revealed that between 1946 and 2014, at least 3,677 minors were sexually assaulted by 1,670 clergymen, representing 4.4% of all clergy with personal records were reviewed during this period. However, the report warned that the actual death toll was likely much higher. The report, carried out by researchers from the universities of Giessen, Heidelberg and Mannheimn, also noted that many church records had been destroyed, making it impossible to make a more precise assessment of the extent of sexual abuse. Of the documented abuse cases, more than half of the victims were under the age of 14 and 62.8% were boys.


In March of this year, the archbishop of Cologne Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki refused to resign after the publication of an independent report detailing acts of sexual abuse committed against at least 300 victims by the clergy over four decades in his archdiocese. Woelki said he would work within the church to change its practices, among other things, preventing the destruction of church records and providing more transparency in investigating allegations of sexual abuse. Woelki himself has not been incriminated in any of the documented abuse cases and has not been accused of covering up clergy wrongdoing. However, the Archbishop of Hamburg Stefan Hesse, who has been accused of mismanaging the investigation of sexual abuse cases in Cologne, where he was vicar, was granted “leave of absence” by Pope Francis, after offering to resign more early this year.

Large number

22.6 million. This is the total number of Catholics in Germany in 2019, out of a total population of 83 million, making it the largest religion in the country. However, that figure has fallen by 2 million since 2010, in part due to Catholics renouncing their faith.

Further reading

The Roman Catholic Church in the United States received at least $ 1.4 billion in taxpayer-funded PPP loans

German priest admits 280 charges of sexual abuse (BBC)

German priest suspended in church abuse case (NY Times)

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