PARIS (Reuters) - Germany’s Catholic bishops confirmed on Tuesday they had sent a damning confidential report on a disgraced bishop to Pope Benedict to persuade him the man had to be removed from his post in Augsburg.
The confirmation of the report, leaked to the media on Monday, stuck another blow against retired Bishop Walter Mixa, whose bid to be reinstated has embarrassed a Church hierarchy still reeling from sexual abuse scandals earlier this year.
While the Mixa case involves embarrassing revelations about his sex life and drinking habits, its real damage lies in the damaging picture it shows of a Church first quietly tolerating a wayward bishop for years and then bickering over his removal.
The permanent council of the bishops conference said its members discussed “with dismay” the controversy swirling around Mixa, 69, at a meeting on Tuesday in Wuerzburg.
“They confirmed that the accusations against him that have been reported in the media were sent to Rome in April 2010.” it said in a statement. “Pope Benedict then took action and accepted Bishop Mixa’s resignation letter.”
Mixa resigned as bishop of the Bavarian city of Augsburg in April after being accused of slapping schoolboys decades ago and misusing diocesan funds. He denied that and rejected rumours, later proven baseless, that he had abused children sexually.
Pope Benedict accepted his resignation in May, making him the first German to quit in the wave of sexual abuse scandals hitting the Church in Europe. Three Irish and one Belgian bishop have also stepped down.
Mixa’s departure for a Swiss psychiatric clinic moved him from the spotlight, but he returned to the headlines last week with an interview charging the bishops had tricked Benedict into retiring him and saying he might seek reinstatement.
Apparently leaked to the media in response, the bishops’ report painted a devastating portrait of an alcoholic who regularly drank all day long and had made homosexual advances to at least two young priests working with him in the 1990s.
“Stay here, I need your love,” it said an internal report about one such encounter quoted Mixa as telling a priest who was rejecting his advances.
After such encounters, it said, Mixa would go to confession the following morning before celebrating mass.
It said Mixa also had “a problem ... with recognising reality” — an accusation that a leading Jesuit journalist made against him on German television last week.
The row has split the German Catholic blogosphere, with Mixa’s critics calling for him to retire to a monastery and supporters claiming he is being punished for the controversial conservative comments he was known for making to the media.
“There won’t be any catharsis at the end of this drama,” the liberal Frankfurter Rundschau daily commented. “Mixa’s defenders — he does still have some — will continue to talk about a cunning intrigue by his ‘enlightened’ critics.
“The Church will remain in an uproar.”
(Editing by Peter Graff)