‘There Was No Real Interest in Your Suffering’: Cardinal Marx Apologizes to Victims After Munich Abuse Report

The more than 1,000-page report, issued on Jan. 20, accused Cardinal Marx of mishandling two abuse cases.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx speaks at a press conference in Munich, Germany, Jan. 27, 2022.
Cardinal Reinhard Marx speaks at a press conference in Munich, Germany, Jan. 27, 2022. (photo: Screenshot / erzbistum-muenchen.de.)

MUNICH, Germany — Cardinal Reinhard Marx offered a personal apology to abuse survivors on Thursday, in the wake of a report criticizing the handling of cases in his archdiocese of Munich and Freising.

Speaking at a press conference in Munich, southern Germany, on Jan. 27, the 68-year-old cardinal said that the treatment of victims was “inexcusable,” reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

“I am attributed responsibility in this report and I am prepared to take responsibility. Last year I wrote to Pope Francis, and I have also stated elsewhere before, that for me the greatest guilt is to have overlooked those affected. That is inexcusable,” he said.

“There was no real interest in their fate, in their suffering. In my opinion, this is also due to systemic reasons, and at the same time I bear moral responsibility for this as acting archbishop.” 

The more than 1,000-page report, issued on Jan. 20, accused Cardinal Marx of mishandling two abuse cases.

The cardinal told reporters that he intended to remain in office for now, but did not rule out seeking to resign for a second time.

“If I or others get the impression that I am more of an obstacle, I will allow myself to be critically examined,” he commented.

Cardinal Marx wrote to Pope Francis in May 2021, offering to resign amid the fallout from the clerical abuse crisis in Germany. The Pope declined his resignation in June of that year.

Westpfahl Spilker Wastl, the law firm that produced the study, presented the report’s conclusions at a press conference in Munich.

Cardinal Marx was not present at the event and Marion Westpfahl, a founding partner of the firm, lamented the cardinal’s absence as she presented the report.

In a brief statement hours after the report’s publication, Cardinal Marx said that he was “shocked and ashamed” at its findings.

The authors of the “Report on the Sexual Abuse of Minors and Vulnerable Adults by Clerics, as well as [other] Employees, in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising from 1945 to 2019” also accused Pope emeritus Benedict XVI of mishandling four cases during his tenure as Munich archbishop from 1977 to 1982.

The 94-year-old retired pope, who strongly denies cover-up allegations, sent 82 pages of observations to investigators compiling the report.

In April 2021, 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.

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 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 2021 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.

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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