Top German bishop probed over sex abuse claims

7th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Germany's Catholic Church was in fresh turmoil on Friday after prosecutors said they were probing paedophilia claims against a top bishop who had offered his resignation after admitting beating orphans.

Prosecutors in the southern city of Augsburg said that they had opened a preliminary probe into Walter Mixa after media reports said he had been accused of sexually abusing a boy while bishop of Eichstaett between 1996 and 2005.

Mixa, 69, at first rebuffed allegations that he beat children and youths at a Roman Catholic orphanage in the 1970s and 1980s in the face of several sworn statements from his accusers.

But on April 21 he tendered his resignation to Pope Benedict XVI after admitting giving youngsters in his care "a slap in the face or two", which he said was "completely normal back then."

In common with other European countries and the United States, the pope's native Germany has been rocked by revelations that children were physically and sexually abused in institutions, the vast majority run by the Church.

Most of the alleged abuse took place too long ago for authorities to be able to bring criminal proceedings but there have been calls to extend the statute of limitations.

The scandal has badly damaged the standing of the Roman Catholic Church in Germany, and also of the pope, whose appointment five years ago as leader of the world's 1.1 billion Catholics was a source of great national pride.

The Augsburger Allgemeine daily cited a lawyer for Mixa, long known as a hardliner who in February blamed sexual abuse of children by priests in part on "the so-called sexual revolution", as rejecting the latest accusations.

The diocese of Augsburg said it had alerted prosecutors to the accusations in line with new German Bishops' Conference guidelines following sharp criticism that the Church had not done enough to investigate in the past.

The pope has yet to respond to Mixa's offer to quit.

© 2010 AFP

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