UPDATED – Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops’ conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church’s handling of sex abuse of minors and said he anticipates change in the church.
Speaking out for the first time Sept. 16 regarding the contents of a leaked document on church sexual abuse in Germany, Cardinal Marx attributed the abuse to the church “lacking attentiveness, lacking sensitivity, through the absence of love.”
“God suffers about what we overlooked, where we looked away, what we did not want to believe as true,” the cardinal said during his homily at a Mass in Schoenstatt, Germany.
The leaked document contained the findings of a confidential study, sponsored by the German bishops’ conference, revealing that an estimated 3,700 minors were abused in Germany from 1946 to 2014. The bishops’ conference did not disclose the findings to the public.
New details from the leaked document state that more than half of the victims were boys under the age of 14. One in every six cases was a form of penetration. Three quarters of the victims had a pastoral or ecclesiastical association with the accused.
Criminologists from the Universities of Heidelberg, Mannheim and Giessen who conducted the study found that neither celibacy nor homosexuality were causes of the sexual abuse. The criminologists found that celibacy did not prompt the abuse, and that homosexuality was “no risk factor,” according to the German Catholic news agency KNA.
“The church experiences highs and lows,” said Cardinal Marx. “Particularly in these days, we are thinking about the dark sides of what has happened and what is happening within the church.”
The cardinal described it as shocking that children had experienced such suffering at the hands of priests they trusted.
“We stand on the side of the victims of sexual abuse. That is our continual duty,” said Cardinal Marx. He said the bishops are “deeply depressed, shaken and ashamed before the reality of sexual abuse of minors within the Catholic Church.”
During a Sept. 18 Mass in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising to honor the vocation of priesthood, Cardinal Marx said it was “not easy” to discuss sexual abuse in the church. However, he said the bishops must “not avoid the challenge.”
“We should take criticism as encouragement to grapple with this task,” said Cardinal Marx. He said the German clergy should examine their consciences for signs of “carelessness” and “clerical posturing.”
“Sin and violence are present throughout the history of the church,” he said. “It is deeply disturbing that people within the church experience evil from people who are supposed to proclaim the Gospel.”
The cardinal said the bishops’ conference would examine the findings of the study during their upcoming plenary assembly in Fulda and discuss next steps.
“I am convinced that a great change is coming,” said Cardinal Marx.
Help us keep you informed -- CatholicPhilly.com can't do it with youDuring CatholicPhilly.com's fall donation campaign, you have a way to help us deliver the kind of news you need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live. Every household's costs keep rising, and we're no different. We make sure your dollars in any amount go a long way toward continuing our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month. Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can -- a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Or by credit card here: