Pope Francis has refused to accept the resignation of a German cardinal who requested to step down as archbishop of Munich and Freising over the Catholic Church’s handling of sex abuse cases.
Cardinal Reinhard Marx offered to resign earlier this month, maintaining he must share the church’s responsibility for decades of sex abuse by clerics.
But in a letter published Thursday, Francis rejected Marx’s resignation. The pope acknowledged reform was needed and said Marx must stay on to “shepherd my sheep.”
The 67-year-old Marx is part of a small group of cardinals who advise the pope on various issues. He has not been linked to any investigative reports, but the prelate said all members of the hierarchy had some responsibility for the church’s failures. A report about the handling of sex abuse cases in Marx's archdiocese is due to be released this summer.
Marx wrote in his resignation letter that probes in the last decade indicated there had been “a lot of personal failures and administrative mistakes but also institutional or 'systemic' failure.”
The church launched an investigation into abuse allegations at the German archdiocese in Cologne after a report released in March uncovered hundreds of victims there.
“I agree with you that this is a catastrophe. The sad history of sexual abuse and the way the church approached it until recently," Francis said.
Earlier this month, the pope criminalized priests’ sexual abuse of adults in the most comprehensive changes to church law in nearly four decades.
As a result, the law now says adults can also be exploited by priests who abuse their authority and that laypeople who hold positions in the church can be punished for comparable sex crimes, as well as for abusing minors.