The World from Berlin 'Anyone Who Thinks Like Mixa Shouldn't Be a Bishop'

Embattled German Bishop Walter Mixa submitted his offer to resign to the Vatican on Wednesday amid allegations that he physically abused children and misappropriated Church funds. German commentators welcome the move, saying it sparks hopes of greater transparency in the Catholic Church's abuse investigation.


Week by week, the Catholic Church's abuse scandal has widened, spreading across Europe and beyond. Within Germany, Bishop Walter Mixa has often been at the crux of the debate. The leading German bishop has been accused of hitting children decades ago. At first, he denied the accusations, but he eventually admitted that he might have slapped some children.

On Tuesday, Mixa apologized -- but his words sparked more criticism than praise because they failed to specify just who he was saying sorry to. Adding to the blemish on his reputation, the bishop is also under investigation for having possibly misappropriated funds from a children's home he used to oversee to buy such things as a tanning bed, expensive artworks and wine.

On Wednesday, Bishop Mixa wrote a letter to Pope Benedict XVI, offering to step down so as to enable a "new start" for his diocese in the Bavarian city of Augsburg and cooperate fully with investigators, according to the Associated Press. His move followed a highly publicized request from two German bishops, urging him to temporarily step down from his position until the investigations have run their course.

In Thursday's newspapers, German editorialists welcomed news of Mixa's offer to resign, saying his role as a representative of the Church had become untenable among the flurry of accusations.

The conservative daily Die Welt writes:

"Right now, Mixa is ill-suited to play the role of pastor and head of a large diocese. He has continued to refuse to give candid explanations, preferring to hide behind vague pleas for forgiveness for everything and nothing. He has left it to the spokesman of his diocese to deal with any questions and has created the impression that he is unaware of the gravity of the charges against him and the depth of the crisis of confidence in the Church. Or perhaps it just didn't seem so important to him."

"In doing so, Mixa has proved that he is incapable of serving his congregation in the way that the current disastrous situation requires. Mixa was adding to the Church's problems, but the fact that he has now apparently realized his mistake will help it overcome its crisis. Although his resignation deserves the greatest respect, it is still necessary to pursue and thoroughly investigate the charges against him."

The center-left Berliner Zeitung writes:

"These days, in real life, the word 'Catholic' stands for physically abusive or lustful priests. People are leaving the Church in droves. ... In real life, Mixa has been very, very slow, on the one hand, to understand that his office does not entitle him to beat children, spend donation money on art, kitsch and wine -- and, on the other, to resign."

The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:

"It doesn't happen every day that bishops speak about other bishops in public. It is even rarer for them to publicly criticize one another. And it is truly remarkable that two bishops have called on a third bishop to temporarily step down from office."

"On Friday, a round table meeting devoted to dealing with cases of sexual abuse will start its work. On Monday, the bishops will propose new guidelines for dealing with cases of sexual abuse in the Church. But they don't want to proceed with Mixa on board. The whole affair and his behavior is still weighing on the Church and damage the credibility of any of the bishops' statements. In the light of possible errors among its members, they have taken responsibility and tried to make the behavior of their institution more transparent."

The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes (in an updated online version):

"Finally. Finally, Walter Mixa, the bishop on the edge, is stepping down. He is clearly not resigning because he has realized that he cannot reasonably perform the duties of his office as long as it is unclear how violently he ... struck children in his care and how deeply he dug into the coffers of the local orphanage foundation. Rather, he is stepping down because the pressure on him has become too great."

"Right up to the end, Walter Mixa has failed to understand that it is too late, that his confession mocks his colleagues' honest attempts to bring transparency to the cases of abuse within the Roman Catholic Church. He has not understood that, by diverting money belonging to the poor to other causes, he damaged the spiritual foundation of his office."

"Mixa is a man with two sides: There's the side of the affable, conservative pastor; but there is also the unfathomable side of a man who high-handedly undercuts the religious message he is supposed to represent. That -- and not his individual deeds -- is the reason why Mixa is resigning. Anyone who thinks this way should not be a bishop."

-- Jess Smee


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