The Office of the Federal President upholds the award of the Federal Cross of Merit to Munich Cardinal Reinhard Marx. Victims of sexualized violence in the church protested against the cardinal's award.
Marx, as president of the German Bishops' Conference, had worked in a particularly high-profile way for justice and solidarity in society, a spokeswoman told the Catholic News Agency (KNA) in Berlin on Sunday. "He has stood up for the reception of refugees, has opposed populism and agitation, and has called for help for those in need in Germany and the world – regardless of origin and religion."
In a time of increasing polarization, the Munich archbishop has thus contributed to social cohesion and mediation between church and society, the spokeswoman continued. On Friday, victims of sexual abuse in the church had protested against the award because of the cardinal's role in clearing up abuse. In an open letter, the affected persons' advisory council of the archdiocese of Cologne called on the German president not to honor the cardinal.
Federal president has clear expectations for enlightenment
The Office of the Federal President said in this regard that Steinmeier had clearly formulated his expectations for the clarification of the mass sexual abuse of children and young people in the Catholic Church. "The fact that institutions such as the Catholic Church have for decades spread the cloak of silence about thousands of cases of abuse and children and young people have mostly stood alone and without support was criticized by the Federal President in his speech on the occasion of the award of Matthias Katsch and Father Klaus Mertes," said the spokeswoman.
At the same time, Steinmeier called on the Catholic Church and other institutions in which children and young people have been victims of sexualized violence to take action.
Steinmeier had on 8. April at the award of the two nationally known abuse clarifiers, Jesuit Father Klaus Mertes and Matthias Katsch, declared: "A crime requires clarification. And it demands prosecution. The same perpetrator must be prevented from finding new victims in ever new places. Good coaxing and demands for individual repentance are not enough. Such cases must never again be treated only as internal affairs of the institutions concerned, including churches."
Advisory council for those affected does not see Marx as an enlightener
In the open letter, the victims' advisory council had said it was "incomprehensible" that Marx should receive the honor because he "continues to be criticized for not having consistently followed up on cases of sexualized violence in his former diocese of Trier and is accused of covering up in this context".
In addition, Marx is accused in the letter of keeping a report on cases of sexualized violence in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, which should have been published in 2010, under lock and key.
The announced honor calls into question "everything for which we fight and work," says the letter, which Peter Bringmann-Henselder signed for the victims' advisory council and which, according to him, was signed off by the other members. The award of the Federal Cross of Merit to Marx, who was chairman of the German Bishops' Conference from 2014 to 2020, is scheduled for Friday.
Those affected want to return Federal Cross of Merit
The victims' advisory council said that if the head of state nevertheless awarded Marx the Federal Cross of Merit, all "who have already been awarded the Federal Cross of Merit for their services to the victims of sexualized violence should return it".
Bringmann-Henselder pointed out that he himself is a recipient of the Federal Cross of Merit. He will return this order, should it come to the award to Marx.