Scandal without end: Bishop Walter Mixa inherits the wind
GERMAN BISHOP WALTER MIXA probably hoped his worries were at an end when he finally submitted his resignation to the Pope on April 21 of this year. In fact, they’re only just beginning. The reactionary and egregiously controversial bishop of Augsburg, who quit under fire for alleged beatings and financial malfeasance at a juvenile center in the Bavarian town of Schrobenhausen, had already generated lurid headlines earlier this year when he blamed the Catholic Church’s spiraling pedophile scandal on “the so-called sexual revolution.” But it seems that this alleged revolution of personal morality also took a toll on Mixa himself, because as of today the public prosecutor in the Bavarian town of Ingolstadt is formally investigating Mixa for the sexual exploitation of an underage altar boy. And this time the paper trail leads all the way back to Pope Benedict XVI. (I have already written about Mixa in depth here and here.)
The new charges against Mixa, who also served as Germany’s “military bishop,” i.e. chief Catholic army chaplain, until his recent resignation, do not date back to his notorious period as a child-beating parish priest in Schrobenhausen (1975-96), but rather to his seemingly happier years as Bishop of Eichstätt (1996-2005). It seems odd that Mixa would have committed such a seedy offence in that sleepy Bavarian town, since the ambitious cleric regarded Eichstätt as a mere stepping stone to his true goal: the coveted position of Archbishop of Munich, which none other than Pope Benedict himself held from 1977 to 1982.
Augsburg was clearly second choice for the Silesian-born Mixa, although his extremely visible and influential position as military bishop during Germany’s military involvement in Afghanistan must have represented an important compensation. He certainly behaved as if he were Archbishop of Munich, or of the world for that matter, when he made such controversial statements as his claim in 2009 that, as bad as Hitler’s extermination of the Jews was, it paled by comparison to Germany’s post-1945 abortion statistics (nine million fetuses). Yes, Mixa was riding very high before his fall. Perhaps that is why the notion that he may have sodomized small boys under his supervision is too bizarre for most Bavarians to swallow. Helmut Mangold, the chairman of the Augsburg Diocese Council, said that he was shocked by the charges. “You could imagine Mixa passing out ‘smacks’ [to the juveniles in Schrobenhausen]. But this – I simply never could have imagined it.”
It looks as if the district attorney in Ingolstadt is about to open up a very full, and extremely wiggly, can of worms. The viciously homophobic Mixa (Europe’s answer to Ted Haggard) already had a reputation for homoerotic proclivities during his time as bishop of Eichstädt. In 2002 one of the local seminary directors wrote that – at the very least – the power-hungry Mixa sought “allies among seminary students dependent on him,” who regularly informed him of events that occurred at the institution. In addition, Monsignor Mixa - who supposedly goes by the nickname “Monsi” in “the scene” - developed an “irrational solidarity with candidates” that “was not compatible with Church law.” In other words, he maintained close relations with openly gay and far-right students and helped promote candidates who had failed elsewhere to the priesthood.
So far, the 69-year-old Mixa – who is currently undergoing psychiatric treatment at a clinic in Switzerland – has denied the pedophile charges, saying that he wishes to contribute to a “complete investigation.” These protests are unlikely to convince many, however, since Mixa initially lied about the earlier charges lodged against him as well.
The Mixa case represents just another feather plucked from Pope Benedict’s cap: the appointment of the violent and allegedly pedophile Mixa as Bishop of Augsburg was Joseph Ratzinger's first major decision following his election as Pope in 2005 – the first of many such short-sighted and devastating choices on the part of “God’s representative on earth.”
MONDAY UPDATES: Pope Benedict formally accepted Mixa's resignation as Bishop of Augsburg and Military Bishop on Saturday, just two and a half weeks after it was submitted, which is close to a record for decisions of this kind. The Pontif had apparently had been aware of the sex abuse charges since April at the latest. Mixa's lawyer denies all wrong-doing in the case.
As always in situations when hard facts are less than forthcoming (and the Church's information policy is looking more and more like that of the old communist parties), the rumor mill is churning full speed. The latest story to hit the blogs in Bavaria is that the Church itself has been spreading (false) pedophilia stories in order to shove Mixa out the door as quickly as possible. All that is certain is that a 26-year-old man called Marco Schneider, who was "outed" by a Catholic website over the weekend as Mixa's "victim," vehemently denies everything and has pledged complete loyalty to Mixa. Whether Schneider is actually the person involved in the alleged pedophilia case remains unknown.
On Monday, diocese administrator Josef Grünwald of Augsburg promised that the church would practise "self-criticism" and seek "self-knowledge" as it looked for a new bishop. Over the weekend, Archbishop Ludwig Schick of Bamberg told the newsweekly Der Spiegel that "I would be in favor of giving serious thought" to abolishing clerical celibacy. In the meantime, Catholics in the diocese of Augsburg have been abandoning the Church by the thousands in recent months, with up to 180 formally resigning their membership with each passing day.