Pope Francis on Thursday rejected Cardinal Reinhard Marx’s resignation, although the Pontiff said he appreciated the Cardinal’s gesture and admitted that "the whole Church is in crisis" because of the sexual abuse of minors.
The Archbishop of Munich and Freising tendered his resignation last week to take responsibility for the abuse of minors by members of the German Catholic Church.
Cardinal Marx, the former president of the German Bishops' Conference who works closely with Francis as a member of the cardinal's commission that advises the Pope, unleashed shockwaves within the Catholic Church when he submitted his resignation on Friday.
His decision was a "sign of the assumption of responsibilities" in the wake of a devastating report on child abuse and cover-ups between 1975 and 2018 by priests in the archdiocese of Cologne.
In tendering his resignation, Marx, considered one of the Church’s leading progressive figures, said the institution is at what he calls "an impasse."
In a letter published on Thursday responding to the cardinal, Francis thanked Marx for his “Christian courage that does not fear the cross, that does not fear being humiliated before the tremendous reality of sin.”
While applauding his bravery, the Pope said the “whole Church is in crisis because of the (...) abuse issue,” adding that “the Church today cannot take a step forward without addressing this crisis."
Pope Francis continued: “the politics of the ostrich leads nowhere, and the crisis must be addressed by our Paschal faith. (...) Taking up the crisis, personally and communally, is the only fruitful way, because we do not come out of a crisis alone but in community.”
The Pontiff said he agrees with Marx’s description of "the sad history of sexual abuse and the way the Church dealt with it until recently as a catastrophe."
“To become aware of this hypocrisy in the way we live our faith is a grace, it is a first step we must take,” Francis wrote.
“We must take ownership of the history, both personally and as a community. We cannot remain indifferent to this crime. Taking it up means putting ourselves in crisis.”
While Francis said that historical crimes ought to be placed in the context of the period they were committed, he stressed that “this does not exempt us from taking ownership of them and taking them up as the history of ‘sin that besets us,’" before calling on “every bishop” to assume that responsibility and “ask himself: what must I do in the face of this catastrophe?”
In concluding his letter to cardinal Marx, the Pope, who also called for urgent reform of “attitudes”, said that the Church’s salvation would only come from within.
“Neither polls nor the power of institutions will save us. We will not be saved by the prestige of our Church, which tends to hide its sins; we will not be saved by the power of money or the opinion of the media (so often we are too dependent on them (...) We will be saved by opening the door to the only One who can [save us], and by confessing our nakedness: ‘I have sinned, we have sinned...’ and by weeping, and stammering, as best we can, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinner,’ – the legacy that the first Pope left to the Popes and Bishops of the Church.” EFE