Cardinal Marx of Munich in Germany Apologizes to Victims after Release of Abuse Report - FULL TEXT
Cardinal Marx gives statement on report Statement by the archbishop of Munich and Freising on the new report on sexual abuse in the archdiocese Munich, January 27, 2022.
At a press conference in the Bavarian Catholic Academy, the Archbishop of Munich and Freising, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, spoke on Thursday, January 27, about the external report “Sexual abuse of minors and adult wards by clerics and full-time employees in the Area of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising from 1945 to 2019” explains:
"The recently published report on sexual abuse in the archdiocese of Munich and Freising from 1945 to 2019 is a deep turning point for the church here in the archdiocese and beyond. It is a deep cut for those affected, for employees and for the faithful, who often ask themselves how they can trust the church and those responsible in it.
After reading it, I am again shocked and shocked by the cases of sexual abuse, above all by the suffering of those affected, but also by the perpetrators and accused and the behavior of those responsible.
Abuse and violence in all their aspects, which are also made clear in the report, are a dark side and will henceforth also be visible as part of the history of our archdiocese. Anyone who still denies systemic causes and opposes a necessary reform of the church in attitudes and structures has not understood the challenge. I wrote it to the faithful in the Archdiocese after my resignation, which the Pope refused: the church was obviously for many people a place of calamity and not salvation, a place of fear and not comfort. Despite the great commitment of priests, employees, volunteers and employees and many believers, there was this dark side that has increasingly been brought to light in recent years. This dark side is also part of an honest, realistic look at the church today and at what happened in the past. With the expert opinion of the WSW law firm, which the archdiocese commissioned itself, we, as those responsible in the archdiocese, allow ourselves to be held up to a mirror and stand by what we see and do not put it into perspective.
This also applies to me personally: I am given responsibility in this report and I am willing to take on responsibility. Last year I wrote to Pope Francis, and I have said elsewhere before, that my greatest guilt is that I overlooked those affected. This is unforgivable. We had no real interest in their fate, in their suffering. In my opinion, there are also systemic reasons for this, and at the same time I bear moral responsibility for this as the incumbent archbishop.
Therefore, first of all, I would like to apologize again personally and also on behalf of the Archdiocese to you as the person affected for what you have suffered in the church. I also apologize to the faithful in this Archdiocese who doubt the Church, who can no longer trust those responsible and who have suffered damage to their faith. For a long time we also did not keep an eye on the parishes in which the perpetrators were used and included them. I also apologize to you.
Focusing on those affected only slowly began in 2010; Step by step there was a way to change, not just to take individual measures, but to think fundamentally differently, from the perspective of those affected. Has this happened consistently since then? Obviously not. Not with us either. Of course there were efforts, and I would like to thank those in our archdiocese who have worked in this area in recent years and are committed as independent contact persons, intervention officers, prevention officers, in advisory staff, in the Center for Child Protection that we initiated and supported ( CCP), which has also intensified the topic on a universal church level.
I am grateful for the developments in the Archdiocese over the past year with the formation of the Advisory Board for Affected Persons and the independent review commission, which have already given us significant impetus from their perspective. But for myself I can say openly that this was a path that has not yet come to an end for us and for me. The MHG study has once again given a strong impetus in the direction of orientation towards those affected, also for me personally, also in direct contact. It has become even clearer to me that the questions and needs of those affected should be the focus, that there is also a need for pastoral care and even more personal encounters, as well as a more active approach to those affected.
The report now presented is not the end point for the Archdiocese, but an important building block in the further processing. This is not the end of the process; it must continue in different fields. Here I rely above all on the cooperation of the Advisory Board for Affected Persons and the Processing Commission. Both bodies are independent and I will, I hope, be able to speak with them and also with the diocesan council and other advisory bodies about the report and the consequences for our archdiocese in the near future.
I would like to pick up on a point that was raised by the experts at the press conference last week: whatever new reports and investigations will come will probably not deviate from the fundamental insights of the investigations that are now available. This already applies to the first abuse report from 2010 with the corresponding conclusions, this applies to the MHG study and also other investigations. We know enough now that we can look and act differently now.
Therefore it is completely wrong to speak of an "abuse of abuse" in the sense of preventing a reform of the church. I also made that clear in my letter to Pope Francis on the offer of resignation: For me, dealing with sexual abuse is part of a comprehensive renewal and reform, as the synodal path has taken up. Even then we stay on the road. We walk a long and arduous journey in the Church, but we walk it for the sake of truth and for the sake of our commission to preach and witness to the gospel in this time and place. There is no future for Christianity without a renewed Church!
The report that is now available is an important basis for discussion, as the experts put it. Everyone who reads it can form their own opinion. After reading it for the first time, I can say for myself that with this report we have come a little closer to the truth and the comprehensive perspective on the church. We see disaster. The report helps us not to look away, but to look at things. That's what it's all about now: look and listen! I am, I feel that we owe it to those affected and to all believers.
This report is primarily about personal and institutional responsibility, especially with regard to the management level of the archdiocese. Certainly there will be different points of view and also criticism in the assessment of evaluations. Of course, one will then have to justify why certain assessments cannot be accepted in this way. But – to be clear once again: I am not concerned now with entering into individual debates or even arguing in a defensive manner, because I feel that would be inappropriate towards those affected.
The specific cases that I was also confronted with by the experts, I will work through again together with experts and examine them carefully. Not to defend myself, but to learn from it and make changes. Above all, I see administrative and communication failures here. But in one case I blame myself for not really actively approaching those affected.
Dealing with abuse in the church was and is a top priority for me and does not conflict with the mission to preach. I was and am not indifferent. Could I have acted more and more committed? Sure, yes!
The issue of abuse was a recurring theme in discussions between the previous Vicar General and myself. When it came to dealing with the issue, the then Vicar General Beer and I got involved together, discussed new ideas and then set them in motion together, both in the Archdiocese and beyond. The Vicar General undoubtedly played an important role in this. The common goal was to advance prevention, reappraisal and reform of the church.
Vicar General Klingan, Head of Office Dr. Herrmann and I will critically examine what other changes we can initiate. We act together. For me, this also includes more regular exchanges with the advisory bodies in the field of abuse, with the intervention and prevention officers and especially with the advisory board for those affected and the independent investigation commission. I want to be more present here. Because the reproach I make myself is that I still don't sufficiently take over the perspective of those affected. That was also a reason for founding my foundation "Spes et Salus", which is intended to strengthen precisely this perspective.
Of course, many people ask themselves: what are the concrete consequences of the report? We will examine this carefully and discuss it intensively. We take the recommendations of the report seriously. We have already set some things in motion beforehand. Are there any personal consequences? Every person with responsibility should look at the findings so far and consider: What am I personally responsible for? What is my failure? Where am I guilty? What consequences do I have to draw and what can I do better? This also applies to those responsible who are not directly named in the report.
For myself, I would like to say once again clearly: As archbishop, I bear responsibility for the actions of the archdiocese according to my moral conviction and my understanding of my office. I am not attached to my office. The offer of resignation last year was meant very seriously. Pope Francis decided otherwise and asked me to continue my ministry responsibly. I am willing to continue doing my service if it is helpful for the further steps that are to be taken for a more reliable processing, an even stronger attention to those affected and for a reform of the church. If I get the impression that I'm more of a hindrance than a help, I'll seek dialogue with the appropriate advisory bodies and allow myself to be critically questioned.
As far as other living responsible persons named in the report are concerned, my predecessors in the episcopate and the former vicar generals can express themselves and have already done so. I wrote Prelate Wolf, who as an official is heavily criticized in the report. He has informed me that he wants to let all his offices and tasks rest. I agree with that. He intends to comment in due course.
Finally, I want to emphasize that we take the report very seriously! Some have wondered why I wasn't there when WSW presented the report. This has nothing to do with a lack of respect for those affected! I had already informed the WSW office in advance – after careful consideration – that the Archdiocese would be represented by the Vicar General and Head of Office. Neither of them held their current offices at the time of the study. I wanted to give the report the space it deserved and therefore decided against participating; nevertheless I followed the presentation. I am sorry if my decision hurt the feelings of those affected.
It is justified that there are currently many questions arising from the report, which we are not yet able to answer all of them. It is therefore important to hold further discussions and to consistently advance the work-up. In a year at the latest, I would like to report on the concrete changes that have been initiated and then present them together with the vicar general and the head of the office.
Experience to date shows us that we do well to involve external expertise and also to work together with the state and other interlocutors. I am firmly convinced that we as a church must see ourselves as a learning organization that also absorbs external expertise.
It is now important to structurally secure the orientation towards those affected even more clearly, but also - as the report emphasizes - to direct the view more strongly towards parishes and institutions in which abuse has taken place. In addition, it is now important to press ahead with the reform steps, as discussed in the synodal path and as they will also be on the agenda of the synodal process in the universal church. I want to continue to do that. Because without a really deep renewal, reappraisal will ultimately not succeed.
In the Archdiocese we are looking ahead, but without looking back it will not work. That is why we will also consider appropriate commemoration and remembrance of those affected by sexual abuse in the church. I hope to consult with the Advisory Board and others. Both should be expressed: the willingness to recognize the dark side, the signal to learn from it and to be in a renewed way a church that is there for the people, not for itself.”