Groups of survivors of sexual abuse at the hands of the Catholic clergy in the dioceses of Cologne and Trier hailed Cardinal Reinhard Marx’s decision not to receive one of the largest public service awards in Germany – akin to a knighthood Anglo-Saxon.
“This shows that the ecclesiastical princes are finally taking a look at the injured,” said Peter Bringmann-Henselder of an advisory group for the diocese of Cologne, referring to the many children abused by priests in the past.
Herman Schell, from a group of abuse victims from Trier, calling himself Missbits, said Marx’s waiver showed sincere frankness, but irritation persisted at the cardinal’s reluctance to explain his role in protecting perpetrators and the trivialization of abuses during his tenure as Bishop of Trier between 2002 and 2008.
Marx, since 2008 bishop in Munich, and from 2014 to 2020 president of the DBK Catholic Bishops Conference in Germany, was to receive the German Order of Merit with Star next Friday – awarded to his predecessors DBK Robert Zollitsch and to the late Cardinal Karl Lehrmann .
Marx, 67, writing to German head of state President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, called for the cancellation of Friday’s award ceremony which had been officially scheduled at Bellevue Palace in Berlin.
“I take very seriously the criticisms that are now being voiced by those who have been affected by sexual abuse in the church field, regardless of the accuracy of the individual statements made in the open letters and in the advertising of the Church. media, ”Marx wrote to Steinmeier.
In remarks released by the press office of Marx, the cardinal, who in 2018 said that as president of the DKB at the time, he had taken responsibility “for all the pain caused,” said on Wednesday that he felt more obligated to resolve the situation – both as a church leader and personally.
Steinmeier “ respects ” Marx’s renunciation
A spokeswoman for Steinmeier told the Catholic KNA News Agency that the president had “respected” Marx’s decision to waive the award.
Steinmeier said he understood Marx’s decision not to receive the award
“During a telephone conversation with Cardinal Marx, the Federal President reaffirmed the latter’s great services of solidarity and justice, as evidenced in particular by his campaign to welcome refugees. [to Germany in 2015], but also in the constant dialogue between Church and society ”, declared the presidential official.
The two men agreed that the acceptance of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church was “of paramount importance” and should be pursued, the spokesperson added.
New report to also cover Ratzinger
Marx, in an interview with Publik – Forum, a progressive Catholic magazine to be released next Friday, said that the “catastrophe” the church was facing could not be trivialized despite the hopes he also had of returning to life. normal.
Referring to the Canisius scandal of 2010, which involved allegations of sexual assault against teachers at the Catholic school in Berlin, he said: “We felt the impact of the shock, but we did not understand it in its ultimate consequences. “
For his Bavarian diocese, he had commissioned a new study on abuse “complete from 1945 to the end of 2019”.
The investigation, Marx said, would include “my tenure” and that of Joseph Ratzinger, from 1977 to 1982, who would later become Pope Benedict XVI.
Rewards already granted to victims’ advocates
Three weeks ago, Steinmeier awarded orders of merit to Berlin Canisius College alumnus Matthias Katsch and a former Jesuit principal for exposing a scandal, praising their “great courage and perseverance.”
Katsch was one of three students who in 2010 informed Mertes about the sexual abuse of children at school. Mertes’ letter to parents has gone public.
Katsch then formed the network of “serrated tables” (Eckige Tisch) for victims and Mertes published numerous books on abuse.
Spokesman for Cologne victims Bringmann-Henselder said: “I hope other cardinals and bishops will take consequences from their behavior, as Bishop Hesse did in Hamburg.”
Archbishop Stefan Hesse, former chief of staff in Cologne between 2006 and 2012, was granted leave from his normal duties in March by Pope Francis.
This was after Archbishop of Cologne Rainer Maria Woelki – defying calls to publish an earlier report – released the “Gercke” report in March.
Compiled by criminal lawyer Björn Gercke, it documented how the Bishopric of Cologne between 1975 and 2018 hushed up scandals and protected the perpetrators.
The former officials were indicted, but not Woelki himself, who then suspended two senior clerics for alleged derelictions of duty.
In all, Gercke identified 75 violations attributable to eight people, including non-disclosure of abuse and omissions in victim assistance.
Such failures have prompted widespread departures from congregations in Germany and strident appeals from reformist Catholic women, including the priesthood, to be open to women.
ipj / sms (KNA, dpa, epd)