Cardinal Marx Won’t Rule Out Offering Resignation for a 2nd Time

The cardinal, who was appointed archbishop in 2007 by Benedict XVI, said that he remains in shock over the depth of the abuse crisis.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, speaks to the press on the final day of the meeting on "The Protection of Minors in the Church" during a press conference in Rome on Feb. 24, 2019.
Cardinal Reinhard Marx, chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, speaks to the press on the final day of the meeting on "The Protection of Minors in the Church" during a press conference in Rome on Feb. 24, 2019. (photo: Daniel Ibanez / CNA/EWTN)

VATICAN CITY — Cardinal Reinhard Marx has said that he cannot rule out asking Pope Francis to accept his resignation for a second time. 

The Catholic archbishop of Munich and Freising discussed the possibility of a second resignation offer in a letter issued on July 23 and read out in churches in the archdiocese at the weekend, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

“I do not understand my service as a bishop as an office that belongs to me and that I have to defend, but as a mission for the people of this archdiocese and as a service to the unity of the Church,” he wrote.

“Should I no longer be able to fulfill this ministry, then it would be time — after consultation with the diocesan bodies and also the abuse appraisal  commission and the affected persons’ advisory board — to decide for the good of the Church and offer my resignation from office once again.”

Cardinal Marx is a member of the pope’s Council of Cardinals and the coordinator of the Vatican Council for the Economy. Until last year, he served as the chairman of the German bishops’ conference.

The 67-year-old cardinal wrote to Pope Francis in May, offering to resign amid the fallout from the clerical abuse crisis in Germany. The pope declined his resignation in June.

In the letter to his flock, Cardinal Marx said that he was surprised by the pope’s decision but fully accepted it. 

“After Pope Francis’ letter of response, I am renewing my yes to my ministry as archbishop of Munich and Freising. Together with my staff and diocesan bodies, I will reflect on what it means not to simply go back to business as usual, as previously stated in my declaration,” he wrote.

The cardinal, who was appointed archbishop in 2007 by Benedict XVI, said that he remains in shock over the depth of the abuse crisis. 

“Since 2010, however, the shock that this terrible thing was perpetrated by officials and employees of the Church, and that we bishops may not always have seen or wanted to see that intensively enough, has not gone away for me,” he wrote, referring to the year that the sex abuse scandal broke in the archdiocese of Munich and Freising.

He continued: “My decision to resign from office, which I made after careful consideration, was intended as a sign that I have to take responsibility for all this personally and as an official, including also for what happened in the past, because as a bishop I represent the Church.”

In April, Cardinal Marx asked German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier not to bestow the Federal Cross of Merit on him after an outcry among advocates for abuse survivors over the award.

He had been scheduled to receive the Bundesverdienstkreuz, Germany’s only federal decoration, at the Bellevue Palace in Berlin on April 30.

Cardinal Marx said that he did not want to draw negative attention to other award recipients.

Peter Bringmann-Henselder, a member of the affected persons’ advisory board of Cologne archdiocese, had urged the president to withhold the honor, citing Cardinal Marx’s handling of cases when he was bishop of Trier in 2001–2007.

The official web portal of the Catholic Church in Germany reported in June that Marx’s actions in Trier would be “comprehensively investigated” by an independent commission on behalf of the diocese that has been led by Bishop Stephan Ackermann since 2009.

It also noted that in the next few months the Munich law firm Westpfahl-Spilker-Wastl is expected to release a study of the handling of abuse claims in the archdiocese of Munich and Freising, including during Marx’s time as archbishop.

Concluding his message to his archdiocese, Cardinal Marx wrote: “But now, with great readiness, I say again a new yes to my mission here in our archdiocese and ask you for your prayers and your trust.” 

“I am convinced: We need reform and renewal in and for the Church, but we also need a sense of the unity of the people of God, which becomes visible in diversity. Let us walk this path together in our archdiocese.” 

“As your archbishop, I am undertaking this journey with you and would like to continue to make my contribution so that we can master the great challenges that lie ahead. With God’s help, we can succeed.”

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, speaks to the press on the final day of the meeting on "The Protection of Minors in the Church" during a press conference in Rome on Feb. 24, 2019.

Pope Francis Declines Cardinal Marx’s Resignation

Noting Cardinal Marx’s reference to the crisis of the Church in Germany, Pope Francis said that “the whole Church is in crisis because of the abuse issue” and the only fruitful path is “to assume the crisis, personally and communally.”

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