Holy Father rejects
On Thursday, 10 June, Pope Francis wrote a letter to Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of Munich and Freising, rejecting the resignation that had been presented by the Cardinal in a letter dated 21 May and later published. The German Cardinal had explained that he sought to step down from the leadership of the German diocese because of the abuse scandal in Germany and the response of the episcopate, which he considered insufficient.
Pope Francis responded with his own letter, written in Spanish and published in Spanish and German, in which he thanked Cardinal Marx for the “Christian courage that does not fear the cross, that does not fear being humiliated before the tremendous reality of sin”. Francis recalled that “the whole Church is in crisis because of the abuse issue”, maintaining that “the Church today cannot take a step forward without addressing this crisis”. Indeed, he explained, “the politics of the ostrich leads nowhere, and the crisis must be addressed by our Paschal faith” and by “taking up the crisis, personally and communally”, which is “the only fruitful way, because we do not come out of a crisis alone but in community”.
The Pope agreed with the Cardinal’s description of “the sad history of sexual abuse, and the way the Church has 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”, he said. “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”. It is true, Pope Francis continued, “that historical situations must be interpreted with the hermeneutics of the time in which they occurred, but this does not exempt us from taking ownership of them and taking them up as the history of ‘sin that besets us’”. Therefore, the Pope added, “in my opinion, every bishop of the Church must take it upon himself and ask himself: what must I do in the face of this catastrophe?”.
Today, he explained, “We are asked for a reform, which — in this case — does not consist in words but in attitudes that have the courage to face the crisis, to assume reality whatever the consequences may be. And every reform begins with oneself”. This, Francis said, “is the only way, otherwise we will be nothing more than ‘ideologues of reform’ who do not put their own flesh on the line” as Jesus did, “with His life, with His story, with His flesh on the cross”. And this, he acknowledged, is “the way that you yourself, dear brother, have taken in presenting your renunciation”, because “burying the past gets us nowhere. Silence, omissions, giving too much weight to the prestige of institutions only leads to personal and historical failure”.
“If you are tempted to think that by confirming your mission and not accepting your resignation this Bishop of Rome (your brother who loves you) does not understand you”, the Pope continued, “think of what Peter felt before the Lord when, in his own way, he presented his resignation”: presenting himself as a sinner, he received the answer, “Tend my sheep”.