By VERENA SCHMITT-ROSCHMANN (AP)
|FILE – In this March 2, 2009 file picture Walter Mixa, Catholic Bishop of Augsburg speaks at the beginning of the Spring Assembly of the German Bishop’s Conference in Hamburg, northern Germany. The controversial former Roman Catholic bishop who lost his job over abuse allegations in Germany says his peers pressured him into offering his resignation and he might take legal action against it. Walter Mixa told Wednesday’s June 16, 2010 edition of “Die Welt” daily that he sent Pope Benedict XVI a resignation letter drafted by other clerics because he felt pressure “similar to purgatory.” (AP Photo/Focke Strangmann,File)|
BERLIN — A former German bishop said Wednesday his peers in the Roman Catholic church pressured him into resigning over abuse allegations and that he is considering appealing his case to the Vatican court.
The Rev. Walter Mixa’s claims — published in an interview by the daily Die Welt — prompted immediate rebuttals from both his former diocese in Augsburg and the archdiocese in nearby Munich, which said in a statement “everything was done according to the rules.”
Mixa, the most prominent cleric within the German catholic hierarchy to lose his post over the country’s spiraling abuse scandal, offered his resignation on April 22 over allegations that he hit children decades ago as a priest. He had initially denied the reports, only to add later that he may have slapped kids.
After he offered to resign, public prosecutors launched an investigation into an allegation of sexual abuse against Mixa, but ended up dropping the case.
In the interview, the former bishop said his resignation letter to Pope Benedict XVI was drafted by other clerics.
“The pressure under which I signed the prewritten resignation was similar to purgatory,” Mixa was quoted as saying.
“Three days later, I repealed it in a letter to the pope,” he said. “During those days I was desperate not knowing what to do.”
Nonetheless, the pontiff accepted the resignation on May 8.
Mixa said he will talk to Benedict in July about “how the situation should develop from here” adding that the pope had invited him for the meeting. He also said he is considering addressing the pope’s court of appeals.
Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi confirmed the pope will receive Mixa in the coming weeks but the acceptance of the resignation as Augsburg bishop is not expected to be up for discussion. Recourse to the Vatican court is possible though the court is free to reject the case.
Mixa said in the interview he is physically fit, but “for the soul it is different, after the horrible pressure I was under during the last months.”
He said he thought it was cruel that background briefings for the press were given about the alleged abuse before anybody had talked to him directly.
“It was a baseless allegation founded only in vague rumor,” Mixa said. “And my vicar general was involved.”
Mixa also named several auxiliary bishops and said Munich archbishop Reinhard Marx and the head of the German bishops conference, Robert Zollitsch, should have acted “more brotherly.”
Marx’s spokesman Bernhard Kellner said, however, that “everything was done according to the rules.”
The Augsburg diocese stressed in a statement it did not publicize the sexual abuse case, which was not known at the time Mixa signed his resignation.
Zollitsch’s office could not immediately be reached for comment.
Before Mixa’s resignation, Zollitsch had publicly called on his fellow bishop to take leave while the allegations against him were looked into; instead, Mixa offered his resignation.
Among the allegations in the German abuse scandal that broke early this year are charges that Benedict, during his time as Archbishop of Munich in 1980, allowed known pedophile priest to work with children. The priest was later convicted of sexual abuse.
Benedict last week publicly asked abuse victims for forgiveness.
Associated Press Writer Victor Simpson contributed to this report from Rome.