Walter Mixa, Bishop of Augsburg, denied ever using physical violence against children in the face of claims from eight people who lived at the Schrobenhausen children’s home during the 1970s and 1980s, that he beat them with his fists, a stick and even a carpet beater.
All eight are ready to repeat their accusations under oath to a court, according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper on Saturday.
After weeks of denial, Mixa released a statement on Friday saying, “I will be completely honest and say that as a long-serving teacher and town priest with contact with very many young people; that I naturally cannot rule out one or the other cuff around the ear 20 years ago.”
The statement continued, “If it actually came to cuffs, I very much regret that today.”
A special investigation into activities at the orphanage and the charitable foundation which ran it has now been completed by lawyer Sebastian Knott, whose ten-page report highlights a number of seemingly incongruous purchases by the orphanage.
These include spending 15,000 Deutsche marks on a Mary icon, DM43,000 on a probably counterfeit Piransi engraving, and DM70,500 on a fancy crucifix. Thousands were also spent on wine.
Not only did Mixa either directly buy these things himself or approve their purchase, he was a poor judge of worth according to the report, which said that his successor had them valued in 1999, and was told they were worth just DM60,000 – less than half the DM128,500 Mixa paid.
When asked by Knott to justify the purchases using money dedicated to the care of the orphans at the home, he replied in a letter, “The children and young people were to develop a taste for art and beauty via the appropriate furnishing of the house.”
Knott’s report does not make any conclusions over whether Mixa, as head of the board of trustees of the Catholic Orphanage Foundation, or the actual head of the Schrobenhausen home, was responsible for the purchases. But he confirmed that many of the bills were signed by Mixa.
Knott said two attempts to meet personally with the bishop failed, and that he only received any kind of answer to his third attempt – and this was an instruction to contact a Munich lawyer.
“He told me that the bishop maintains his offer of discussion to those concerned, and will be helpful in the clarification of financial inconsistencies,” said Knott.
These inconsistencies include the delivery of wine worth DM5,386.51 to the home between 1993 and 1996. “Alcohol is forbidden in the home,” clarified Knott.
Nearly DM40,000 was also paid from orphanage funds for a bishop’s ring made of gold, the report said.
And in 1992, the foundation paid DM5,457 for parts for columns which were built in a private priests’ garden. There also remains the transfer of DM40,000 to Rudolf Koletzko, a controversial figure in the Vatican. The search for a reason behind this transfer is ongoing, said Knott.
Criticism of Mixa is increasing, with politicians from the Social Democratic Party and the Greens calling for him to resign.
Catholics within the bishopric are also raising their voices against him, with military deacon Anton Tischinger talking of a, “catastrophe which has broken over the church of Augsburg.” He called for Mixa, technically his boss, to finally think of the victims and apologise.
Chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference, Robert Zollitsch, Archbishop of Freiburg, called on Saturday for Mixa to explain the facts, and said he had agreed to do so. “It simply has to happen,” he said.
Zollitsch said he planned further talks with Mixa and stressed that he trusted him to help clarify things.
Erfurt Bishop Joachim Wanke has apologised to and asked for forgiveness from victims of child sex abuse within the church in a letter which will be read out in all Catholic church services in his bishopric over the weekend.
He is deeply shamed by what he said was the, “particularly bitter fact that such things happened in our church,” the letter says.
An alleged case of sex abuse was reported more than a week ago in Erfurt, after which the bishop’s office brought charges against a priest who was accused of abusing four children between 1980 and 1996.
“I must admit that I have learned a lot in the recent time,” wrote the bishop in the letter. He said paedophilia was an addiction and that strong rules, understanding, remorse or even forensic medical statements could not guarantee safety from it.
In the future the bishopric would follow all claims of sexual abuse, he promised.
“A wrong image of the church must not be considered more important than the suffering of the victims,” wrote Wanke.
“Those who work in the name of the church are not exempt from statutory criminal law,” he added.