AUGSBURG, Germany, April 23, 2010
The Catholic Church on Friday removed a top aide to Walter Mixa, the German bishop who had handed in his resignation two days earlier over allegations that he lied about slapping minors.
Bishop Mixa, 68, has never been accused of sexual misdeeds or covering up paedophilia in the church, but was criticized for taking two weeks to issue a grudging admission that he slapped the faces of teenagers in an orphanage and spent orphan funds on expensive art.
His spokesman, 50-year-old Dirk Hermann Voss, has been removed from his duties as head of media, the diocese of Augsburg said.
Voss, a lawyer by training, spearheaded Bishop Mixa’s defence campaign after allegations surfaced in late March that Bishop Mixa hit teenagers when he was a parish priest before 1996.
Bishop Mixa initially rejected the allegations as false and threatened the former orphans with criminal charges and civil suits. Voss told reporters that the secular media was gunning for the church and trying to wound it by attacking one of its leading figures.
That misstep sealed Bishop Mixa’s fate, and church sources said the clergy blamed Voss, claiming he persuaded Bishop Mixa to take the hard line.
The diocese said Bishop Mixa, who was bishop of Eichstaett from 1996 to 2005 and then of Augsburg, has gone on vacation after telling Pope Benedict XVI he will resign.
As he left, Bishop Mixa apologized for his “weaknesses,” but refused to say what he did wrong.
A special investigator, Sebastian Knott, is still checking Bishop Mixa’s handling of orphanage funds, including purchases of fine wine, a sun— tanning bed and old art, as well as claims that Bishop Mixa hit minors with a fist, a cane and a carpet beater.