FaithWorld

Disgraced German bishop stirs messy row with Catholic hierarchy

mixaA messy dispute has broken out in Germany’s Catholic Church after a bishop accused of abusing minors said his superiors had tricked Pope Benedict into retiring him and he might ask the Vatican to be reinstated.

Bishop Walter Mixa, who quit in April after admitting he had slapped children decades ago, said fellow bishops conspired to force him to tender his resignation and used a flimsy allegation of sexual abuse as a “trump card” to get Benedict to accept it. (Photo: Bishop Walter Mixa, 2 March 2009/Christian Charisius)

The bishops concerned flatly denied the accusations and hinted that Mixa, 69, who had stayed briefly in a psychiatric clinic after leaving his post in the Bavarian city of Augsburg, needed more rest and possibly more treatment.

The dispute put an embarrassing spotlight back on the sexual abuse crisis that rocked the German Church earlier this year but had since slipped from the headlines. It also prompted comments from churchmen that one newspaper described as “not Christian.”

“Bishop Mixa is acting really foolishly,” Rev. Eberhard von Gemmingen, former head of Vatican Radio’s German service, told ZDF television on Thursday. “He’s lost touch with reality … he’s a sick man and it’s silly to make so much noise about him.”

Crises plague centuries-old German passion play

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Andreas Richter hangs on the cross as he plays the character of Jesus Christ during a rehearsal of the Passion Play in Oberammergau on April 10, 2010/Michaela Rehle

Every 10 years, a mountain village cradled in the German Catholic stronghold of Bavaria nails Jesus Christ to a cross and charges spectators to watch. However, add a financial crisis, a wide-ranging scandal in the Roman Catholic Church and a cloud of volcanic ash to the mix, and suddenly enthusiasm for a 376-year-old Passion Play can begin to ebb.

“I don’t think the world has got the message yet. During the last passion play, people were suddenly knocking at my door looking for rooms and a ticket,” Renate Frank, owner of Gasthof zur Rose, a popular Oberammergau guesthouse told Reuters.  Today her lodgings are only half booked for the show. By this time 10 years ago, she was fully booked.

Pupils “sadistically tormented” at German Catholic monastery

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Ettal monastery, March 3, 2010/Johannes Eisele

Children were “sadistically tormented and also sexually abused” at a Catholic monastery in Pope Benedict’s native Bavaria, according to a new report commissioned by the Roman Catholic Church.

A lawyer investigating accusations of abuse in a Benedictine monastery school in Ettal presented a final report to the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising on Monday, including 173 pages of victims’ accounts of abuse.

“My investigations quite clearly show that for decades up until around 1990, children and adolescents were brutally abused in the Ettal monastery,” Thomas Pfister said in a statement.  “The number of victims’ accounts has increased significantly since the intermediary report of March 5,” added Pfister, who said last month that hundreds of pupils had been beaten and some sexually abused at the school.

German Catholics urge pope to speak out on sex scandals

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"... And the pope is silent" reads the front page headline in this Hamburg daily, 15 March 2010

German Catholic politicians and lay activists urged Pope Benedict on Monday to speak out about sexual abuse cases by priests that have shocked the country and led to questions about his management of the crisis. The calls came amid widespread criticism in the media that the Bavarian-born pontiff made no statement after getting a briefing on the scandals at the Vatican on Friday from the leader of the Church in Germany, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch.

In Bavaria, a convicted abuser priest whose transfer to Munich in 1980 while Pope Benedict was archbishop there threatened to draw the pontiff into the scandal, was suspended from his post in a spa town, the Munich archdiocese announced.

Irish abuse crisis aftershocks hit German, Dutch Catholic churches

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Bavarian flag at St. Peter's Basilica after Pope Benedict's election, 23 April 2005/Tom Heneghan

It’s like falling dominoes. The scandal of Roman Catholic priests sexually abusing children in Ireland, which came to light last year when two government inquiries cracked the wall of clerical silence there, seems to have inspired victims in other European countries to come forward with their repressed stories. It started in Germany last month with revelations about abuse cases in several elite Jesuit boarding schools. That sparked further reports from other parts of Germany, where reports of hundreds of cases are now coming out. In the neighbouring Netherlands, reports of abuse have also begun surfacing in recent days. On top of all that, an unrelated scandal about a gay prostitution ring has now hit the Vatican.

Since Pope Benedict summoned all Irish bishops to Rome and promised the Irish people a pastoral letter about the abuse cases, what will he do with all these cases now coming out in his homeland? Especially since, as explained below, he seems to have been quite close to some of them.

SSPX set to push the envelope against the Vatican again

mueller-regensburgThe ultra-traditionalist Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), recently in the headlines for having a Holocaust denier as one of its four bishops recently readmitted to the Roman Catholic Church, looks set to push the envelope with Rome again by ordaining 21 new priests in three different countries on June 27.* Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller of Regensburg, the German diocese where the SSPX seminary at Zaitzkofen plans to ordain three of those men, has declared the planned ordinations a violation of Church law and has urged the Vatican to warn the SSPX not to go through with them. He told Bavarian Radio on Sunday that he hadn’t heard back from Rome yet and would bring up the issue with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) personally on his next monthly trip there.

*CORRECTION: Not all will be ordained that day — 13 priests will be ordained in Minnesota on June 19. (Photo: Bishop Müller, 21 Sept 2007/Michael Dalder)

In the subtle ways of the Vatican, a non-response from Rome to a bishop’s query is like the yellow signal on a traffic light. It’s neither yes nor no, in that vague way that says if it’s not openly forbidden, one might be able to live with it, but, uh, we don’t want to put that in writing, so over to you. The question now is whether the Vatican will opt to live with this latest challenge to its authority.

Jordan’s welcome for pope includes translation into Latin

Jordan has pulled out all the stops to give Pope Benedict a warm welcome. It even went so far as to translate King Abdullah’s welcoming speech into Latin. Both the king and the pope spoke in English at the arrival ceremony in Amman today. None of the prelates traveling with Benedict seemed to be fumbling around for headphones to hear the king’s speech in the Church’s official (dead) language. But a stack of Latin translations later appeared in the press centre, along with the Italian and Arabic versions of the speech.

This is not the first time this has happened. Some Latin translations were also provided when the pope visited his native Bavaria in September 2006. Cute touch — but will anybody read this?

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Why do Jews want Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” published in Germany?

Mein Kampf in English translation, Educa Books, 2006It sounds counter-intuitive. German Jews want Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf — the 1925 book that spells out his plan for a Nazi state and gives expression to his extreme anti-Semitism — to be published in Germany. The Central Council of Jews in Germany would be ready to help edit the new edition and pressure the Bavarian state government (which owns the rights and blocks publication) to issue it. As our Berlin correspondent Dave Graham reported, Stephan Kramer, the Central Council ‘s general secretary, made the suggestion in an interview with Deutschlandfunk radio (here are the DLF text report and audio in German).

Kramer said things had changed since Bavaria banned its publication in the initial post-war years as a way to thwart a revival of Nazi ideology. “Through the Internet and other media, the book is widely available abroad. Especially in far-right wing circles, there has been what you might call a romanticising of the book Mein Kampf, so I personally and we in the Central Council now feel a publicly available version of Mein Kampf with critical commentaries would now be much more helpful. It would make clear to readers who access it what crude stuff was written there,” he said.

Meanwhile in Austria, work has begun on a spoof biopic of Hitler called — what else? — “Mein Kampf.” It’s based on a play of the same name by the late Hungarian-Jewish playwright George Tabori and will premiere in Germany next year.

Catholic culture slips a bit in Benedict’s backyard

Bavarian children greet Pope Benedict in Munich, Sept. 9. 2006The southern German state of Bavaria is one of those areas, like southern Poland, that are known for their fervent folk Catholicism. It was on full display last year when Bavaria’s favourite son, Pope Benedict, visited his native state. But Catholicism is changing even in Bavaria, as his successor as archbishop of Munich and Freising has admitted. Cardinal Friedrich Wetter told fellow Bavarian bishops on Thursday that so many candidates for the priesthood have such insufficient knowledge of Catholic teaching that seminaries will have to introduce remedial courses to bring them up to standard.

Candidates for the priesthood increasingly come from various backgrounds and apply for the admission to the seminary with sometimes quite different prior experiences of faith and the Church,” he said in a statement (here in German). “With a propaedeutic course inserted before normal theology studies in the seminary, the Bavarian bishops want to add an educational phase that fosters the seminarians’ spiritual growth and personal discernment, … transmits basic theological knowledge and allows insight into the real situation of the Church through participation in social and pastoral work.”

A further translation of that translation would be: “we need a remedial course because the incoming seminarians don’t know enough about the Catholic Church.”