German bishop offers to resign over abuse

The conservative leader has been accused of financial misconduct and physical violence

Published April 22, 2010 12:16PM (EDT)

A leading conservative Roman Catholic bishop in Germany has written to Pope Benedict XVI offering to resign amid persistent allegations of physical abuse and financial misconduct, the Augsburg Diocese said Thursday.

Bishop Walter Mixa wrote a letter to the pope on Wednesday, the Augsburg diocese said in a statement, offering to step down in hopes of allowing a "new start" for his diocese. He said he would cooperate fully with investigators and offered an apology.

"I ask the forgiveness of all those to whom I may have been unfair and to those who I may have caused heartache," Mixa wrote, acknowledging that he was "fully aware of my own weaknesses."

The Vatican does not comment on possible resignations.

Mixa has been accused of hitting children while a priest decades ago. He initially denied ever using violence against youngsters, but later acknowledged he may have slapped children.

Although the case does not involve any allegations of sexual abuse, Mixa has been a key member of Germany's Bishops Conference for more than a decade and his initial denial of physical violence fueled frustration among German Catholics who saw it as evidence that the church was unwilling to come clean on the issue of abuse.

Adding to Mixa's troubles, a special investigator has found financial irregularities at a children's home under his responsibility around the same time as the allegations of abuse.

Mixa said in his letter he would support efforts for a "thorough investigation" into all the allegations.

On Wednesday, the head of the national bishops' conference had urged Mixa to take leave until the allegations are cleared up, German media reported.

Archbishop Robert Zollitsch said he had several phone conversations with Mixa in recent days to discuss "how to contribute to calming down the current difficult situation in the Augsburg diocese," according to the DDP news agency.

By Melissa Eddy

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Catholicism Sexual Abuse