On Wednesday, Sept. 15, the Vatican’s highest authority rejected the resignation of the archbishop of Hamburg, who has serious allegations of sexual abuse. The German Catholic Church is facing a world-scale scandal over allegations that during 2018 alone, 3677 people were reported to have been sexually abused under the complicity of clergy authorities.
Stefan Hesse, archbishop of Hamburg since 2015, resigned in March 2021 after a shattering report was published, holding him accountable for many child abuse cases in his previous diocese in Cologne, Germany.
As ABC News reported, the papal nuncio’s office in Berlin said in a statement Wednesday that the pontiff made his decision after two Vatican envoys traveled to Cologne in June to investigate possible mistakes by top church officials in handling past sex abuse cases.
Hesse’s resignation followed the publication of a report commissioned by his counterpart in Cologne that denounced at least 75 cases in which high-ranking officials neglected their duties in situations of suspected abuse.
Among the criticisms mentioned in the report were, for example, failure to follow up or report cases of abuse, neglecting to punish perpetrators, or failure to provide proper care for victims.
Specifically, Hesse was accused of 11 cases in which he failed in his duty. Following that report, at the end of March, Francis granted him an indeterminate time off from his duties pending further investigation.
Now the Vatican, following the visit of its two representatives in June, reports that it found “personal procedural errors” on Hesse’s part but that the investigations did not show that they were committed with the intention of covering up cases of sexual abuse.
“The fundamental problem consisted, in the wider context of the administration of the archdiocese, in the lack of attentiveness and sensitivity toward those affected by abuse,” the report says.
The statement adds that Francis rejected Hesse’s resignation and asked that it highlight “the fact that the archbishop humbly acknowledges the mistakes he made in the past” and offered to resign.
In a statement written by Hasse addressed to his archdiocese, he informed that it would be challenging to return to his activity after all that has happened and that it was essential for him to reach out to those who are perplexed or question the Pope’s decision to reject his resignation.
The sex abuse scandals by the Catholic Church in Germany have affected many other authorities of the German clergy.
In June, speaking about the abuse cases in Germany, Francis said that a reform process was necessary and that every bishop must take responsibility for the “catastrophe” in the crisis. However, just as he is doing now, he denied permission for German Cardinal Reinhard Marx to resign after he was accused of sexual abuse in the same report that reached Hasse, Fox News reported.
At the time, Francis wrote a letter to Marx in which he offered papal backing to continue the controversial German church reform process launched in response to the abuse crisis and reports alleging mishandling of the situations by German Catholic authorities for decades.
The so-called “Synodal Path” of the German Catholic Church has provoked enormous resistance inside and outside the country, mainly from the most conservative sectors who are opposed to open any debate that goes against the sacred scriptures, on issues such as priestly celibacy, the role of women in the church and homosexuality.