Pope Francis has rejected resignation of Cardinal Reinhard Marx.
He did so in a letter sent today, June 10, 2021, replying to the German Cardinal, where, not accepting his resignation, asks Marx to continue his work as Metropolitan Archbishop of Munchen und Freising, Germany.
In a June 4 letter, the Archbishop of Munich and Freising announced that he had submitted his resignation to the Holy Father on May 21 and that he had received permission from the Pontiff to express the reasons.
In Marx’s statement, he explains he feels responsible for the “catastrophe of sexual abuse” committed by people in the Church in recent decades. Moreover, the cardinal also indicated that in recent months he has meditated at length about the advisability of making this gesture: “The crisis does not refer only to a necessary improvement of the administration, although it is also about this, but to the question of a renewed form of the Church and a new way of living and proclaiming the faith today.”
“This is my answer, dear brother. Continue as you propose, but as Archbishop of Munchen und Freising. And if you are tempted to think that, by confirming your mission and by not accepting your resignation, this Bishop of Rome (your brother who loves you) does not understand you, think about what Peter felt before the Lord when, in his own way, he presented his resignation: ‘get away from me because I am a sinner’, and listen to the answer: ‘shepherd my sheep,'” Francis responds at the end of his letter.
Exaudi has provided below the full English translation of the Pope’s letter responding to Cardinal Marx.
The Holy Father’s Letter Dated Today Sent to
His Eminence Cardinal Reinhard Marx
Santa Marta, June 10, 2021
First of all, thank you for your courage. It is a Christian courage that does not fear the cross, does not fear to be humbled before the tremendous reality of sin. So did the Lord (Philippians 2:5-8). It is a grace that the Lord has given you and I see that you want to assume and guard it so that it will bear fruit. Thank you.
You tell me that you are going through a moment of crisis, and not only you but also the Church in Germany is living it. The whole Church is in crisis because of the issue of abuse; what’s more, the Church cannot take a step forward today without assuming this crisis. The policy of burying one’s head in the sand doesn’t lead to anything, and the crisis must be assumed from our paschal faith. Sociologisms and psychologisms are useless. To assume the crisis, personally and communally, is the only fruitful way, because one does not come out of a crisis alone but in community and, moreover, we must keep in mind that one comes out of a crisis either better or worse, but never the same.
You tell me that, since last year, you have been reflecting: you set out, seeking the Will of God with the decision to accept it whatever it might be. I agree with you in describing as a catastrophe the sad history of sexual abuses and the way the Church faced it until a short time ago. To realize the hypocrisy of this way of living the faith is a grace; it is a first step that we must take. We must take charge of history, both personal as well as communal. One cannot remain indifferent in face of this crime. To assume it implies to be in crisis.
Not all want to accept this reality, but it is the only way, because to make “resolutions” to change one’s life without “giving it one’s all” does not lead to anything. Personal, social and historical realities are concrete and must not be assumed with ideas, because ideas are discussed (and rightly so), but the reality must always be assumed and discerned. It is true that historical situations must be interpreted with the hermeneutics of the time in which they occurred, but this does not exempt us from taking charge and assuming them as history of the “sin that haunts us.” Therefore, in my judgment, every Bishop of the Church should assume it and ask himself: what must I do in face of this catastrophe?
We have expressed our “mea culpa” more than once in face of so many historical errors of the past, given many situations, although we did not take part personally in that historical juncture. And it is this same attitude that we are asked to have today. We are asked for a reform, which in this case does not consist in words but in attitudes that have the courage to be in crisis, to assume the reality whatever the consequence. And all reform begins with oneself. Reform in the Church has been achieved by men and women who were not afraid to enter in crisis and allow themselves to be reformed by the Lord. It is the only way; otherwise, we will be no more than “ideologues of reforms” that do not put their own flesh at stake. The Lord never agreed to do “a reform” (allow me the expression), neither with the Pharisee, or Sadducee, or Zealot or Essene project, but He did so with His life, with His history, with His flesh on the cross. And this is the way, which you yourself, dear brother, assume on presenting your resignation. You say well in your letter that to bury the past leads us nowhere. The silences, the omissions, the giving of too much weight to the prestige of the Institutions only leads to personal and historical failure, and lead us to live with the weight of having “skeletons in the closet,” as the saying goes. It is urgent to “ventilate” this reality of the abuses, and the way that the Church proceeded, and to allow the Spirit to lead us to the desert of desolation, to the cross and to the resurrection. It is the way of the Spirit that we must follow, and the starting point is a humble confession: we have erred; we have sinned. Inquiries will not save us, or the power of institutions. The prestige of our Church will not save us, which tends to dissimulate its sins; the power of money will not save us, or the opinion of the media (we are so often too dependent on it). What will save us is to open the door to the only One that can do so and to admit our nakedness: “I have sinned,” “we have sinned” . . . recalling “depart from me, who am a sinner,” (Luke 5:8) … [an] inheritance that the first Pope [St. Peter] left the Popes and Bishops of the Church. 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. As Church, we must ask for the grace of shame, and may the Lord save us from being the shameless harlot of Ezekiel 16.
I like the way you end your letter: “I will gladly continue to be priest and Bishop of this Church and I will continue to commit myself at the pastoral level as long as you think it sensible and opportune. I would like to dedicate the future years of my service more intensely to pastoral care and to commit myself to the spiritual renewal of the Church, as You tirelessly request.”
And this is my answer, dear brother. Continue as you propose, but as Archbishop of Munchen und Freising. And if the temptation comes to you to think that, by confirming your mission and not accepting your resignation, this Bishop of Rome (your bother who loves you) does not understand you, think of what Peter felt before the Lord when he presented his resignation in his manner: “depart from me who am a sinner,” and listen to the answer: “feed my sheep.”
With brotherly affection,