Top German Catholic Church official offers resignation over 'catastrophe of sexual abuse'

Cardinal Reinhard Marx gives a sermon in Mainz, Germany in March 2020.

Rome and Berlin (CNN)A top cleric in Germany's Catholic Church has offered to resign as the Archbishop of Munich, saying he shared "responsibility for the catastrophe of sexual abuse" by church officials.

"In essence, it is important to me to share the responsibility for the catastrophe of the sexual abuse by Church officials over the past decades," Cardinal Reinhard Marx wrote to Pope Francis in a letter sent on May 21 that was published Friday.
"The investigations and reports of the last ten years have consistently shown that there have been many personal failures and administrative mistakes but also institutional or 'systemic' failure," the letter continued.
    Pope Francis has not yet accepted Marx's resignation, and the Archbishop has been told to remain in post until a decision is made, a statement from the Archdiocese in Munich said. It also noted that Marx has "repeatedly considered resigning from office in recent months." Marx told journalists on Friday that "the Pope himself wanted to see my letter published."
      "It is painful for me to witness the severe damage to the bishops' reputation in the ecclesiastical and secular perception which may even be at its lowest," Marx wrote in the letter. "I feel that through remaining silent, neglecting to act and over-focusing on the reputation of the Church I have made myself personally guilty and responsible."
      In 2018, a report from Germany's Catholic Church admitted to "at least" 3,677 cases of child sex abuse by the clergy between 1946 and 2014, local media reported at the time. The report, which took four years to assemble, found the victims were mostly boys, more than half of whom were aged 13 or younger. Every sixth case involved a rape and at least 1,670 clergy were involved.
      Marx cited that report in his resignation letter, noting that after it was published, he publicly stated that "we have failed."
        "But who is this 'We'?" he wrote. "I also belong to this circle. And this means that I must also draw personal consequences from this."
        "I believe one possibility to express this willingness to take over responsibility is my resignation," he added, noting that he hoped his actions could be a "signal for a new beginning, for a new awakening" of the Church.
        Survivor Matthias Katsch, who was abused by a priest in Berlin when he was 13, said in a statement to CNN on Friday that Marx's resignation was an "impressive step" and a "testimony of leadership."
        "We have always pointed out that the abuse crisis of the Catholic Church is not about a number of isolated cases, but that it is a systemic failure. As a leader in this system, Cardinal Marx has now personally decided to take responsibility. This is an exemplary act, as those affected have long called for," Katsch, who is the spokesperson for the survivor group Eckiger Tisch, said in an published statement.
        Katsch added that he was hopeful that Marx's move would bring survivor-supported initiatives to the fore, including the establishment of a truth commission and compensation for victims.

        A 'coverup'

        Marx's resignation comes amid a growing uproar among German Catholics over the abuse and a steady decline in church membership.
        Last week, the Pope sent two senior foreign bishops to investigate the Archdiocese of Cologne, Germany's largest, over its handling of abuse cases, Reuters reported.
        "I will face possible mistakes and failure in individual cases to be investigated in detail which were committed during my terms of office and which will then have to be reviewed and evaluated pursuant to objective criteria," Marx wrote in his letter.
        A report on abuse in the cardinal's Munich diocese is due later this year.
        Earlier this week, the Pope issued the most extensive revision to Catholic Church law in four decades, insisting that bishops take action against clerics who abuse minors and vulnerable adults, commit fraud or attempt to ordain women, Reuters reported.