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Cardinal calls for dramatic reform after German church abuse scandal

The Catholic Church is in need of a drastic overhaul following an explosive report on sexual abuse and misconduct in Germany, the archbishop of Munich said on Thursday.

The Catholic Church is in need of a drastic overhaul following an explosive report on sexual abuse and misconduct in Germany, the archbishop of Munich said on Thursday.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, whose archdiocese of Munich and Freising had commissioned the report, said it had unveiled a “disaster.”

“Whoever is still in denial about systemic causes and opposes necessary reforms of the church in behaviour and structure has not grasped these challenges,” Marx said.

The report, drawn up by the law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl (WSW), details 497 victims and 235 alleged perpetrators over a period of several decades in the archdiocese.

Among those implicated in the mishandling of abuse cases is Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who served as archbishop of Munich and Freising between 1977 and 1982, and was known then as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

The retired pontiff, who lives at the Vatican, has since admitted that he made a false statement to the investigators.

Marx was also accused of improperly dealing with abuse claims. On Thursday, he said that he should have taken stronger action and expressed his regret at overlooking those affected.

The cardinal said reform was a must for the entire Catholic Church. “There is no future of Christianity in our country without a renewed Church!”

“For me, coming to terms with sexual abuse is part of a comprehensive renewal and reform, as the Synodal Path has taken up,” he said, referring to the German Catholic Church’s series of conferences aimed at modernizing practices and addressing scandals.

While Marx’s comments were welcomed by some, for others they did not go far enough.

“No one is taking personal responsibility,” said Thomas Schüller, a theologian who specializes in Canon Law.

In comments to dpa, he accused the archdiocese under Marx and continuing with “business as usual.”

Marx has not fired anyone in the wake of the report, calling instead for each member of the clergy to assess his own guilt.

On the wall of the building where Marx made his comments to the press on Thursday, someone had sprayed the word “child fuckers.”

The Catholic Academy in Bavaria, which hosted the event, responded with a public statement: “The stain of abuse hangs over the entire institution of the Church.”

It described the graffiti as cause for reflection, saying it “expresses the Church’s dramatic loss of reputation, which is caused not by the ill will of its critics, but in the crimes that happened inside the Church and their cover-up.”

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