Embattled Bishop Walter Mixa tendered his resignation Wednesday in a letter to Pope Benedict, bowing to pressure over accusations that he beat children at a Catholic orphanage in the 1970s and 1980s.
Following weeks of claims of child beatings at the Schrobenhausen children’s home – and further suggestions he may have misused Church funds – Bishop Mixa, 68, sent a resignation letter to the Vatican to avoid further damage to the Church’s reputation, Mixa's office confirmed Thursday morning.
“I am taking this step in the unshakeable faith in God’s mercy and confidently hope that the Father in heaven will lead the Church of Augsburg to a good future,” he wrote, according to daily Augsburger Allgemeine.
His resignation would apply to his positions as Bishop of Augsburg and Catholic Military Bishop for the German Bundeswehr.
The resignation follows earlier remarks by the head of the German Bishops’ Conference, Robert Zollitsch, which appeared to distance the Church from Bishop Mixa by publicly asking him to take a break from his duties.
Zollitsch said he had asked Mixa to take a “period of spiritual reflection and physical distance” from the Augsburg diocese – a move widely seen as unique in the Church’s recent history that had been coordinated with the Vatican.
Pope Benedict must still accept Bishop Mixa’s resignation before it is final. It would represent an extraordinary blow to the Church in the midst of a turbulent period in which it has been battered by allegations of child sex abuse in Germany and around the world.
Mixa, who is bishop in the Bavarian city of Augsburg, has faced weeks of mounting claims that he hit and beat children while he was a teacher at Schrobenhausen children’s home during the 1970s and 1980s. Eight people who lived at the home have come forward with claims that he beat them with his fists, a stick and even a carpet beater.
After weeks of flat denials, Mixa recently admitted he could “not rule out a cuff or two around the ear 20 years ago” and added that “I very much regret that today.”
An investigation by lawyer Sebastian Knott has also found that Mixa, as head of the board of trustees of the Catholic Orphanage Foundation, may have spent the institution's money on art, wine and jewellery.
Note: This is not a sexual abuse case; rather, the allegations of beatings came up in the wake of all the other scandals that have been surfacing during the last months. It is kind of ironic and perhaps even telling that the only high-profile resignation is over something that is not sexual abuse. Mixa's main problem seems to be that he very strongly denied the accusations at first until they could no longer be denied, which was something that forced the Church to put him under pressure, especially as the recent case of the head of the Protestant church resigning very quickly over a serious misdemeanour showed quite a contrast.
According to a cursory research I just did, hitting children in schools was illegal in Western Germany after 1973, but in Bavaria (where Mixa worked), it was forbidden only in 1980. This means that in some of the instances, what he did could have been legal, but anything that happened "in the 1980s" probably wasn't. FYI, corporal punishment of children was completely banned in Germany in 2000 - this includes any corporal punishment by parents.