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German bishops' dispute deepens; leaks of 'secret file' on bishop who resigned

June 21, 2010

An ugly dispute within the German Catholic hierarchy has grown uglier, with the multiple media references to a “secret file” on Bishop Walter Mixa, reportedly containing allegations of severe alcohol problems and resurrecting old charges of sexual abuse.

Bishop Mixa resigned his post as head of the Augsburg diocese in May. At the time he admitted that he may once have been guilty of physical abuse—slapping students at an orphanage where he was working in the 1970s—but he emphatically denied charges of sexual abuse. German police investigated the sex-abuse charges and dismissed them.

Last week Bishop Mixa announced that he wanted to rescind his resignation. He charged that two other German prelates, Archbishops Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg (the president of the German bishops’ conference) and Reinhard Marx of Munich, had “tricked” him into resigning and given inaccurate information to Pope Benedict XVI to ensure that the Pontiff would promptly accept the resignation. Bishop Mixa has moved back into the episcopal residence in Augsburg, saying that he has nowhere else to live.

This weekend German media outlets reported that Pope Benedict had received a “secret file” that contained reports on Bishop Mixa’s alcohol problems, saying that the bishop’s drinking left him “out of touch with reality.” That “secret file” reportedly included the old charges of sexual misconduct as well.

Bishop Mixa has asked to meet with Pope Benedict, and the papal spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, told reporters that the meeting would be arranged soon. However, he added, the bishop’s resignation would not be a subject for negotiation.

Father Lombardi said that Pope Benedict had accepted Bishop Mixa’s resignation after receiving information about the situation in the Augsburg diocese. He declined to discuss either the content or the source of that information. “It is clear that the press is speculating,” the papal spokesman said, in an obvious reference to stories about the secret file, “but we don’t want to add to that speculation.”


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