Pope Francis endorses Cardinal Marx’s mandate for Church reform

Cardinal Reinhard Marx tried to resign but, in the end, Pope Francis rejected the move and instructed the 67-year-old German to continue leading the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising. What does this mean for the reform of the Church? Because this cardinal is closely aligned with the pope and serves as a member of his inner circle of advisors, this represents a huge endorsement for reform of the Church from Pope Francis himself. Marx served from 2012-2018 as president of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (COMECE) and until last year as head of the German Bishops Conference (DBK). By keeping Marx in place, Francis has endorsed the cardinal’s mandate for bold Church reform and his desire to change a Church system that produced the worldwide clergy sex abuse crisis.

The Church is at a “dead end”

Marx said he agreed to withdraw his resignation “in obedience” to the pope, but he made it clear that, from this point forward, everything would be different. “Simply going back to the previous agenda cannot be the way forward,” he said. Marx referred to the Church as being at a “dead end” and desperately needs to be reformed. The cardinal called out those in the Church who refuse to admit this and who “disapprove of discussing reforms and renewal in the context of the sexual abuse crisis.” He believes a turning point is only possible if we take a “synodal path,” which he encouraged the Catholic Church in Germany to begin two years ago to propose reforms that would help it be more faithful to the Gospel and save it from becoming irrelevant.

What is the German Synodal Path

The Synodal Path is a Synodal Assembly consisting of 230 members, made up of the archbishops, bishops and auxiliary bishops, as well as lay-members from the Central Committee of German Catholics. This number is further increased by representatives of religious orders or other ecclesial groups ALL HAVING AN EQUAL VOTE.

The Synodal Path is further divided into four Synodal Forums that each focus on one of the four topics under discussion:

  • Power and Separation of Powers in the Church – Joint Participation and Involvement in the Mission
  • Life in succeeding relationships – Living Love in Sexuality and Partnership
  • Priestly Existence Today
  • Women in Ministries and Offices in the Church

Pope Francis agrees with Marx about the need for reform

“The whole Church is in crisis because of the issue of abuse,” Francis said. Writing to Cardinal Marx, Francis said: “I agree with you in describing the sad history of sexual abuse and the way the Church faced it until a short time ago as a catastrophe. One cannot remain indifferent in face of this crime. Declaring that “the whole Church is in crisis” over abuse, Francis said it could no longer take a “head-in-sand policy” over the crisis. He praised the cardinal for displaying “a Christian courage” for having written his letter. “We are asked for a reform, which in this case does not consist in words but in attitudes that have the courage to be in crisis, to assume the reality whatever the consequence,” Francis continued. “Reform in the Church has been achieved by men and women who were not afraid to enter in crisis and allow themselves to be reformed by the Lord,” he said. The pope said it was essential “to allow the Spirit to lead us to the desert of desolation, to the cross and resurrection” as the only way to “save” the Church.