BERLIN, Germany – A Catholic cardinal promised on Thursday, January 27, to learn from a report that detailed hundreds of cases of sexual abuse in the past 75 years in his German archdiocese and that he said highlighted a Church that had been a place of misery and fear for many.
Cardinal Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and Freising, was responding to a law firm’s report last week on past sexual abuse in the archdiocese, which included criticism of how some cases had been handled by both him and former Pope Benedict XVI.
“There was a dark side (of the Church) that has come to light in the last few years. This dark side belongs in an honest, realistic look at the Church of today,” Marx told a news conference.
“For many people the Church was a place of misery, a place of fear,” said Marx, a leading progressive in the Church.
Last week’s report by law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl (WSW)on the period between 1945 and 2019, commissioned by the Munich archdiocese, was the latest chapter in a crisis over sexual abuse that has roiled the Catholic Church in Germany and other countries in recent years.
It found 497 victims of abuse, mostly male, but added the real number was probably higher, and 235 alleged perpetrators, including 173 priests.
It accused Marx of misconduct in his handling of two suspected abuse cases. It also criticized Benedict for failing to act in four cases when he was Munich archbishop. The former pope has denied wrongdoing.
Marx, who last week apologized on behalf of the archdiocese for suffering inflicted, said on Thursday that while he was not glued to his office, he was willing to continue in his role to oversee the renewal that was needed.
Last year, Pope Francis rejected an offer by Marx to resign as archbishop over the crisis. Marx said that if he turned out to be “more of a hindrance than a help,” he would consult with appropriate committees.
He said priorities included examining the report and engaging more with victims.
“It’s about pushing ahead with reforms and the Synodal Path. I want to do more of that. Without deep renewal, working through this won’t succeed,” he said.
The “Synodal Path” movement aims to give lay Catholics more influence in the Church, such as in the appointment of bishops, sexual morality, priestly celibacy and women’s ordination.
Without giving details about his plans, Marx said he would report back in a year on concrete steps that had been taken.
Benedict, who is 94 and who resigned in 2013 citing his advanced age, denied wrongdoing in a written statement to investigators. However he has acknowledged giving the investigators a piece of wrong information about a meeting on a sexual abuse case. The Vatican has defended him. – Rappler.com