German archbishop offers to resign over Church's sexual abuse 'catastrophe'

One of Roman Catholicism's most influential liberal figures, Germany's Cardinal Reinhard Marx, has offered to resign as archbishop of Munich, saying he had to share responsibility for the "catastrophe" of sexual abuse by clerics over past decades.

His offer, which Pope Francis has yet to accept, follows an uproar among the German faithful over abuse. Last week, the Pope sent two senior foreign bishops to investigate the Archdiocese of Cologne, Germany's largest, over its handling of abuse cases.

"I have to share responsibility for the catastrophe of sexual abuse by officials of the Church over past decades," Marx wrote in a letter to Pope Francis, which was published on the archdiocese's website. He said he hoped his departure would create space for a new beginning.

The sexual abuse crisis had changed his faith, he said, and made him realize the need not only for administrative reform in the Church, but for "a new way to live and proclaim faith today".

Marx is a proponent of the "Synodal Path," a movement that aims to give lay Catholics more influence over the running of the Church and in issues including sexual morality, priestly celibacy and women's ordination.

The movement also says lay people should have a say in the appointment of bishops, which is the pope's purview.

Conservatives in Germany and elsewhere have attacked the concept, saying it could lead to a schism.

Marx, 67, told reporters he had sent the letter on May 21, but that it was only last week that the Pope had e-mailed him to say he could make it public.

He was head of the Catholic Church in Germany and president of the country's conference of bishops until last year when he declined to stand for a second term. He is well short of 75, the age at which bishops must offer their resignation.

The last few years have seen an accelerating exodus, with liberal faithful queuing in Cologne to quit the Church, protesting not only at abuse but also over conservative attitudes toward same-sex relationships.

Germany's Church has an outsized influence globally, in part because of its wealth: taxes paid by members and collected by the government make it the world's richest.

The Pope, who is known to like Marx, typically waits, sometimes months, before deciding whether to accept a bishop's resignation. Marx was not mentioned at the Vatican's daily briefing, which announces new appointments and resignations.

A member of the Pope's kitchen cabinet, a council of cardinals who advise the pontiff on important issues in the 1.3 billion-member Church, Marx has advocated raising more women to leadership roles in the hierarchy.

"I continue to enjoy being a priest and a bishop of this Church, and I will keep committing myself in pastoral matters, wherever you deem it reasonable and useful," Marx said in his letter to the Pope. – Rappler.com