About “pope fatigue” and criticism of the church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx © Harald Oppitz (KNA)

Is Pope Francis getting tired of his duties?? How best to deal with internal church criticism? And how does he view the debate on compensation payments for victims of sexual abuse? Cardinal Reinhard Marx found an answer to everything.

In his estimation, Munich Cardinal Reinhard Marx sees no signs of fatigue or thoughts of possible retirement in Pope Francis.

The Catholic Church leader wants renewal, even if he has no visible plan for it, Marx said Tuesday at the Munich Press Club. The pope, who turned 83 on the same day, takes a different approach, he says, wanting to integrate many people rather than impose a reform agenda from above. Even if his path is arduous, he sets processes in motion, he says.

Francis is a "typical Jesuit," said the president of the German Bishops' Conference. For the latter, what is the task, will be done. The Pope works all day, only interrupted by prayer. Vacation and leisure time do not exist for him. At the beginning of the new year, Marx expects the Pope to present the final document of the Amazon Synod. This one was mainly about the climate and a pastoral for areas where there are few priests, he said.

In this context, the cardinal emphasized that with the environmental encyclical "Laudato si," published back in 2015, the pope had written one of the "great texts of the 21st century. He has presented his first report on the "Church of the Twentieth Century. This is true with regard to the Church as well as to humanity. The preservation of creation is a concern for many people. However, this should not only be done on the basis of individual persons, but on the basis of the ies themselves.

What worries him are the social, ecological and political consequences of "unchecked capitalism," Marx explained. Several years ago, the Catholic and Protestant churches in Germany published a joint paper on the social-ecological market economy. He said it was also worrying that there were currently few opportunities for people to build up assets. In addition, populist currents are on the rise worldwide. The church is part of social life and should have a unifying force for all. Religion must be part of the solution, not the problem.

Cardinal Marx swallows some internal church criticism

Marx deliberately does not react to critical statements of confreres with regard to Pope Francis or to other church developments, as he explained. The chairman of the German Bishops' Conference admitted, however: "Yes, it annoys me. But I swallow it."Sometimes, however, he is tempted to respond. Nevertheless, he plans to stick to his strategy.

As a reason for this, the cardinal stated that he did not want to fuel any polarization between supposed "true Catholics" and supposed "wimps": "What kind of pictures are these?!"Such judgments are polemical, even personally disparaging. He does not want to react to this, even though he is actually a person who is open to discussion.

With regard to the dialogue on the future of the church in Germany, which was launched on the first of Advent, Marx said that he would like Catholics to embark on the synodal journey together and listen to one another. Whoever enters into such a process must be prepared to change. It is of no use to lay down red lines in advance or to accuse others of trying to divide the church.

He wanted to encourage everyone to come down from their "high horses or donkeys – whatever", Marx said. Those involved should approach each other and be prepared to believe that the other is also inspired by the Spirit of God. This applies to both sides. Therefore, a synodal way is more than a parliamentary process, where simple majorities bring the decision.

After an intensive struggle, the German bishops decided on a binding synodal path in the spring of 2019. The ies to be addressed are power, sexual morality, the priests' way of life and the role of women in the church. With the participation of Catholic lay people and external experts, the bishops want to clarify their positions on these ies. One goal is to regain trust lost after the abuse scandal. The first synodal assembly will take place from 30. January to 1. February instead of.

Marx on compensation payments: Financing only second question

In the debate about higher compensation payments for victims of sexual abuse, the question of financing comes second, according to Cardinal Marx.

The study, commissioned by the German Bishops' Conference, had shown that the maximum amount set in 2011 of 5.000 euros was not enough, said its chairman. At that time, the goal was to act quickly and without bureaucracy. Now it must be clarified conclusively in the working group how a higher compensation can be determined. It is about a "better recognition" of the suffering suffered.

Only in a second step will it be necessary to clarify how the payments, which are not legally enforceable sums, can be financed, said Marx. Among other things, he considers a fund to be possible, because the dioceses have different financial resources. Most recently, several dioceses had already opposed recourse to church tax funds in light of the payments, including Rottenburg-Stuttgart, Freiburg, Mainz and Limburg.

A working group had proposed two models in September: a lump sum of around 300.000 euros per victim or a graduated procedure in which, depending on the severity of the case, between 40.000 and 400.000 euros could be paid. But no decision has been made yet. Marx hopes for this in 2020. At the same time, he emphasized that the Catholic Church is the first to follow a path in this area, which is being observed by others.

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Christina Cherry
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