— Rome — In a letter published by Holy See Press Office on Thursday, Pope Francis rejected Cardinal Reinhard Marx’s resignation as head of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising.
Cardinal Marx had offered his resignation in a “confidential and personal” letter that was subsequently released to the press with the permission of the Pope.
“It is important to me to share the responsibility for the catastrophe of the sexual abuse by Church officials over the past decades,” Cardinal Marx explained in his letter. The crisis has revealed not only “personal failures and administrative mistakes, but also institutional or ‘systemic’ failure,” he maintained.
“I feel that through remaining silent, neglecting to act and over-focussing on the reputation of the Church I have made myself personally guilty and responsible,” Cardinal Marx said. “I believe one possibility to express this willingness to take over responsibility is my resignation.”
In his response, Pope Francis praises Cardinal Marx for his “Christian courage, which is not afraid of the Cross.”
The Pope insists that that the Church must face the abuse crisis “from our Paschal faith,” saying that “taking up the crisis, personally and communally, is the only fruitful path.”
He notes, too, his agreement with Cardinal Marx’s characterization of the crisis of sexual abuse and cover-up in the Church as “a catastrophe,” and says, “we cannot remain indifferent in the face of this crime.” Instead, “confronting it means putting ourselves in crisis.”
Pope Francis expresses his opinion that “every Bishop of the Church must confront [the crisis] and ask himself, ‘What should I do in the face of this catastrophe?’” Bishops, he said, are called once again to adopt an attitude of culpability for the “errors of the past … even if we personally did not participate in that historical juncture.”
And he explains that he feels men and women in the Church must “enter in to the crisis and allow themselves to be reformed by it.” The Pope adds that it is only through “humble confession” that the Church will be “saved”: “And then we will feel that healing shame that opens the doors to the compassion and tenderness of the Lord who is always close to us.”
Pope Francis closes his letter by assuring Cardinal Marx of his love and understanding, pointing to the example of St Peter who, “in his own way” offered his resignation to Jesus, saying, “I am a sinner.” The Pope invited Cardinal Marx to “think of what Peter felt” in that moment, and remember Jesus’ answer: “Tend my sheep.”