Disgraced German bishop stirs messy Catholic row

Thu Jun 17, 2010 12:16pm EDT
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By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor

PARIS (Reuters) - A messy dispute has broken out in Germany's Catholic Church after a bishop accused of abusing minors said his superiors had tricked Pope Benedict into retiring him and he might ask the Vatican to be reinstated.

Bishop Walter Mixa, who quit in April after admitting he had slapped children decades ago, said fellow bishops conspired to force him to tender his resignation and used a flimsy allegation of sexual abuse as a "trump card" to get Benedict to accept it.

The bishops concerned flatly denied the accusations and hinted that Mixa, 69, who had stayed briefly in a psychiatric clinic after leaving his post in the Bavarian city of Augsburg, needed more rest and possibly more treatment.

The dispute put an embarrassing spotlight back on the sexual abuse crisis that rocked the German Church earlier this year but had since slipped from the headlines. It also prompted comments from churchmen that one newspaper described as "not Christian."

"Bishop Mixa is acting really foolishly," Rev. Eberhard von Gemmingen, former head of Vatican Radio's German service, told ZDF television on Thursday.

"It's very stupid to play this up in public," he said, "He's lost touch with reality ... he's a sick man and it's silly to make so much noise about him."

Mixa said in an interview on Wednesday that two archbishops -- Robert Zollitsch and Reinhard Marx, heads of the German and Bavarian bishops conferences respectively -- had tricked Benedict into accepting his resignation by passing on unsubstantiated allegations that he had sexually abused minors.

"The rumor was baseless, as the (Augsburg) prosecutor's office confirmed after looking into it," he told the daily Die Welt. "They should not have cornered the pope like this."   Continued...