In one of the frankest admissions yet to come out of the scandal-battered Catholic Church, the head of the German Bishops' Conference, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, said help given to the victims of abuse “had not been enough.”
The statement, posted on the Archbishop's website, came as controversial Bishop Walter Mixa, accused of hitting children in a Catholic kids' home, was rebuffed in his efforts to meet and speak with his alleged victims.
In a statement provided to Süddeutsche Zeitung daily, Bishop Mixa denied hitting children and offered to meet his accusers, but two of these alleged victims dismissed his protests and rejected his overtures for a meeting.
Archbishop Zollitsch, meanwhile, admitted that the Catholic Church had made mistakes in the way it handled victims of child abuse.
He said the revelations of child abuse filled the Church with “sorrow, horror and shame.”
It shocked the Church, “how much suffering had been inflicted on the victims, who often, decades afterwards, could not express their injuries in words,'' he wrote in his Good Friday address.
He went on to say that ''misplaced fear about the reputation of the Church'' had meant help for the victims of abuse “had not been enough.”
“That is a painful reality into which we have put ourselves,” he wrote.
In one of the most high-profile cases, Bishop Mixa, who had previously claimed the sexual revolution was partly to blame for child abuse in the Church, has been accused of hitting children at the St. Josef children's home in Schrobenhausen, north of Munich, in the 1970s and 1980s. One alleged victim has told Süddeutsche Zeitung: ''He punched me with full force in the face.''
In his statement, Mixa said: ''I am deeply shaken by the allegations that have been raised against me. I affirm once again that I have at no time used physical violence in any form against children and adolescents.
''I am ready to speak to men and women who lived at the St. Josef Children's Home in the youth about their memories, experiences and accusations, to listen and learn about what weighed upon them in childhood.
''Ensuring the welfare and the future of children, adolescents and families has always been of the utmost concern to my pastoral work.''
Two of the six alleged victims declared themselves appalled by his offer and said they would refuse to meet with him.
Hildegard Sedlmair from the town of Stadtbergen near Augsburg, where Mixa is now bishop, said she was “shocked” by the offer and added that Mixa was “deceiving himself.”
Jutta Stadler from Pfaffenhofen, north of Munich, branded Mixa's statement “dishonest and brazen.”
She added that she would have been willing to meet and speak with Mixa, had he acknowledged in his statement that he had hit her.
“Under no circumstances will I speak to someone who portrays me as a liar,” she said.
The Catholic lay organisation, “We are the Church,” meanwhile called upon Mixa to step aside from his office until the claims against him could be resolved.