Survivors push cardinal to refuse Federal honour

An outcry from abuse survivor advocates has seen Munich and Freising’s archbishop refuse the German equivalent of knighthood.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx says he wrote to German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Tuesday, declining to accept Germany’s only federal decoration.

He was scheduled to receive the Federal Cross of Merit at Berlin’s Bellevue Palace today, April 30.

In his letter to Steinmeier, Marx said he was convinced declining the honour was the right step.

He explained his move was in consideration of those “obviously offended by the award and especially …the survivors [of sexual abuse],”.

Furthermore, he didn’t want to draw negative attention to other award recipients or the office of the Federal President, he said.

“The criticism that is now being expressed by people who are affected by sexual abuse in the area of ​​the Church, I take very seriously, regardless of the accuracy of the individual statements in open letters and in the media.”

In an open letter to Steinmeier, a member of the Affected Persons Advisory Board of Cologne archdiocese urged Steinmeier to withhold the honour.

Peter Bringmann-Henselder – himself a recipient of the Order of Merit with Star for his work on behalf of abuse survivors, said he would hand back his own medal if the award to Marx went ahead.

If Marx were to receive the Federal Cross of Merit, it would call “everything into question for which we fight and work,” he wrote.

“Otherwise, everyone who has already been awarded the Federal Cross of Merit for their services to the victims of sexualized violence should return it, as it will lose its actual value, the honor of a meritorious activity, when it is awarded to Cardinal Marx.”

Bringmann-Henselder added that he has the support of other Affected Persons Advisory Board members.

“We do not understand how you can award Cardinal Marx the Federal Cross of Merit, a man who is still criticized for not having consistently investigated cases of sexualized violence in his former diocese of Trier and who is accused of covering up cases in that context.”

As archbishop of Munich and Freising, Marx had so far failed to publish a 2010 report on cases of sexualized violence in the archdiocese, Bringmann-Henselder continued.

This contrasts, he commented, to the Archdiocese of Cologne’s 800-page Gercke Report, which was issued in March this year.

Marx has not responded directly to Bringmann-Henselder’s letter’s claims about the 2010 report.

The Archdiocese of Munich and Freising is reportedly planning to publish a new study documenting cases of sexualized violence between 1945 and 2019.

Marx says he hopes his decision not to receive the honour would show “that further processing and, if possible, healing in the area of ​​sexual abuse in Church and society remains an important concern for me.”


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