German bishop claims he was forced to resign

6 16 2010 Mixa Former Bishop of Augsburg, Walter Mixa

The former Bishop of Augsburg, Germany, Walter Mixa, has told a German newspaper that he was forced to sign his April 22 letter of resignation, and that it was written by others. He plans on discussing the matter with Pope Benedict in a July audience.

Earlier this year, Bishop Mixa was accused of physically abusing children under his care at an orphanage in the 1980s. The prelate was also accused of embezzling part of the orphanage's endowment.  All of this took place during the heightened media attention spotlighting the Catholic Church regarding clerical sexual abuse and the attempt to pin its mishandling on Pope Benedict.

Augsburg’s Auxiliary Bishop Anton Losinger later disclosed an allegation of sexual abuse against Bishop Mixa to the press. The allegation was later proven to have no grounds.

On April 22, Bishop Mixa submitted his letter of resignation to the Pope. Three days later, he sent a fax to the Holy Father withdrawing his resignation. On May 8, Pope Benedict accepted the resignation in an unprecedentedly rapid process.

Wednesday’s edition of “Die Welt” featured an interview with Bishop Mixa who claimed he was forced to sign a pre-written letter of resignation by his brother bishops in order to protect the church from further shame. Even though his conscience was clean, he said he signed the letter because “the pressure was like purgatory.”

Bishop Mixa said he has a meeting with Pope Benedict in July. “I will explain the situation to him personally,” he said. “He invited me to have the conversation with him. Above all, we will discuss how the situation should continue to develop.”

In the interview, he was also asked if he would submit a case to the Vatican’s court of appeals, citing canon law which states that when a person is forced to act under irresistible coercion, their actions are invalid. “That is a very legitimate question,” he replied. “And quite a good idea, which I will well consider and remember.”

Die Welt also reported that Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi declared, “it is not foreseeable that the acceptance of his resignation will be presented as a topic for discussion” when the bishop meets with the Holy Father.

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