«Abyss opens» – Cardinal Marx and the Garching case | free press

Garching an der Alz (dpa) – When Rosi Mittermeier thinks of the former pastor of her parish in Garching an der Alz in Upper Bavaria, beautiful moments come to mind.

“He was a celebrated star with a lot of charm and a large number of fans,” she says. “There are fond memories of big parties and events. We actually had what you would want in a vibrant parish,” she says. “All the worse when this beautiful photo is overshadowed and destroyed by the realization that this was just one face of him. An abyss opens up on the other side.”

The Catholic priest Mittermeier speaks of has made headlines in recent years. In 2008 – after about 20 years – he was recalled from the community and transferred again, this time to Bad Tölz. He has since been suspended and has to return to his home diocese in Essen.

It wasn’t until two years after his departure from Garching that it became known: accusations had been made in previous workplaces – first in North Rhine-Westphalia, then in Grafing, just 60 kilometers from Garching an der Alz – that he had abused children. He was even legally convicted by the Ebersberg District Court for acts in Grafing. The church then transferred him to Garching, to a parish where none of this was known and where, as we now know, he may have relapsed again.

The responsible Archdiocese of Munich and Freising “currently has knowledge of three victims of sexual abuse in Garching / Alz, where there is concrete evidence of acts in the 1980s and 1990s by the priest appointed at the time in the parish,” it said. Archdiocese of Cardinal Reinhard Marx shortly before his visit to the parish on Saturday.

“The number of unreported cases is probably huge, but no one can know that,” said Mittermeier, co-founder of the “Sour Dough” initiative. It is an association of parishioners who want to come to terms with what has happened in their parish and who already talked about it with Marx in 2020.

Even after the charges against the priest became known, it had been said for years that there had been no further cases in Garching. It has become clear since last year that this is probably not the case. Since then, the mood among those who stayed with the former pastor for a long time has changed, says Mittermeier. “People whose children were acolytes are naturally restless. We know that many victims of abuse can’t say anything about it until years later – if at all.”

With Marx’s visit to the community, she combines the hopes of a fair reappraisal and that “the most diverse versions of the wrong reaction” will come to light.

From a victims’ initiative perspective, the Garching case is an example of widespread practice within the Church. “We know that transferring abusive priests to other parishes was a daily occurrence,” said initiative spokesman Matthias Katsch. “Yet bishops find it difficult to go to the affected congregations, who often only learn from the newspaper that a perpetrator has been giving you the sacraments for years.”

“The use of this priest in pastoral care and the lack of information to the community were serious mistakes given his past, for which the Archdiocese apologizes to those affected and to all people in the parish,” the diocese announced in advance. “The Archdiocese deeply regrets that children are victims of sexual abuse in this way.”

Marx himself has only been Archbishop of Munich and Freising since 2009. His predecessor, the retired Archbishop, Cardinal Friedrich Wetter, apologized for the matter in a statement on March 23, 2010. But of course, all eyes are still on Marx today.

After all, he justified his – then rejected – offer to resign to Pope Francis by wanting to take structural responsibility for the abuse scandal that has been going on for years. Criticism of the revaluation within the Catholic Church has only just been leveled as the German Bishops’ Conference (DBK) announced on Friday that only some of the dioceses had set up independent committees to tackle sexual abuse that had been more than agreed. a year ago.

Under these circumstances, Marx’s visit to Garching “could make a significant contribution to local reconciliation,” says the spokesman for the Catholic reform movement “We are Church”, Christian Weisner – “if Cardinal Marx asks forgiveness for decades of wrong and wrongdoing.” important decisions of the diocese leadership » The visit to the parish is “a concrete opportunity to demonstrate his pastoral commitment as a pastor and to work for the spiritual renewal of the Church – as he offered in his resignation and as Pope Francis then instructed him in his refusal”.

A new abuse study for the diocese has been announced this fall and is also eagerly awaited because Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, now emeritus, was Archbishop of Munich there from 1977 to 1982. At that time, for example, the later Reverend Garching was first transferred from North Rhine-Westphalia to Bavaria.

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