TRIER, Germany — Accusations have been raised in a number of German media that Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising failed to remove from office a priest accused in 2006 of sexually abusing a minor.
The alleged abuser, it appears, was allowed to stay on as parish priest for a number of years, even going on overnight excursions with youth.
A spokesperson for Marx has said that the prelate had acted in accordance with relevant guidelines that were in place at the time.
Saarland public broadcaster SR reports that Marx, who was then Bishop of Trier, knew authorities were investigating a parish priest – identified only as “M” – for allegedly sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy.
Citing the victim’s legal counsel as a source, SR reports that “M”, who was then 52, had partially confessed the crime to authorities. However, he appears to have avoided prosecution because the alleged crime fell just outside the statute of limitations.
The Church was duly informed by authorities of this in 2006, but never requested the case files, several media report.
When nonetheless questioned by the diocese, “M” denied the allegations, SR reports, and then-Bishop Marx closed the matter and moved on.
It appears the accused continued to serve as parish priest in the community where the alleged abused took place until 2015.
According to the German news magazine “Focus”, state authorities initiated two further investigations into the priest’s conduct, in 2013 and 2015. Both times, the lines of inquiry stalled and finally were abandoned due to a lack of evidence.
Only as of May 2015, the alleged abuser is no longer allowed to be in contact with minors or to publicly say Mass, Focus reports, as both civil authorities and the Trier diocese are yet again investigating the matter under both legal and canonical auspices.
Marx, who was Bishop of Trier from 2001 to 2007, has not yet spoken about the accusations leveled against him. Spokespersons for both the Diocese of Trier and for Marx have confirmed that the then-Bishop of Trier knew of the case in 2006.
However, the spokesperson for Marx emphasized that he “had acted in accordance with the guidelines of the German Bishops’ Conference”. These guidelines were reformed in 2010, and then again in 2013.
“Such a case would be dealt with differently today; the Church would conduct her own investigation”, the spokesperson said. “The German bishops have acted on the bitter experiences, and introduced new guidelines that apply to all dioceses”.
Marx is also president of the German bishops’ conference, a member of the Council of Cardinals advising Pope Francis on the reform of the Roman Curia, and coordinator of the Vatican’s Council for the Economy.