|Bishop Walter Mixa|
Attributed to Dr Christoph Goldt
Published under a creative commons
licence (Source: Wikipedia Commons)
At the time of Mixa's resignation fiasco, Anna Arco wrote an excellent comments piece in the Catholic Herald entitled "Augsburg's confessions: the strange case of Bishop Mixa" (2 July 2010). In it, Arco tried to make sense of some of the allegations that had been levelled against Mixa, summarising the rather odd and tragic events that surrounded this man's protracted resignation.
Initially, it seems that the Bishop of Augsburg was accused - in early 2010 - of having physically assaulted some children in his care. By the end of this saga, though, his own brother bishops were allegedly accusing him of drunkenness, financial impropriety and of having made past sexual advances towards seminarians and priests. The former Bishop of Augsburg was subsequently accused of other forms of child abuse, though these latter allegations proved to be baseless.
At first, the German prelate - who happens to be a close friend of Pope Benedict XVI - denied that there was any truth to these accusations against him. Within a few days, though, he seemed repentant and even willing to accept that he had made mistakes in the past. Later on, Mixa appeared to claim that he had been targeted by other members of the Church hierarchy in Germany, who used these allegations against him as a means of forcing him out of office. (His supporters suspected there may have been some kind of plot to remove him, for many "liberals" - and the German hierarchy seems to be full of them - did not care for his shoot-from-the-hip form of orthodox Catholicism.)
Eventually, Bishop Mixa conceded that he may have given some children a "clip round the ear" at an orphanage run by nuns several decades ago. He highlighted, though, that this form of punishment wasn't out of the ordinary at the time. He also admitted that some aspects of his financial dealings on behalf of the same orphanage were regrettable. Soon afterwards, Mixa resigned as Bishop of Augsburg, writing: “I am and have been conscious of my own weaknesses and I am very conscious of that in the face of those to whom I was unjust and all those to whom I gave sorrow”. Pope Benedict XVI accepted his resignation.
Soon after he had relinquished his Diocese, though, Mixa claimed that he had been pressured into resigning by some of his brother bishops, even suggesting that men like Archbishop Reinhard Marx and Archbishop Robert Zollitsch had put him through "purgatory". It also appears that he moved back into his episcopal apartments and then sought to withdraw his resignation. He even met with Pope Benedict XVI to discuss his future. After this meeting, though, the Holy See announced that: “Bishop Mixa will retire for a time of silence, meditation and prayer and, following a period of cure and reconciliation will, like other bishops emeritus, be available for pastoral duties, with the agreement of his successor.”
In concluding her article two years ago, Anna Arco hoped "that this will be the last we hear of the bizarre case of Bishop Mixa." Although it seems that Mixa may have been pushed rather too hastily from his Diocese, and may even have been unfairly treated by more "liberal" members of the Church, I felt at the time that Arco's concluding words were more than reasonable. I shared the same hope; even if I believe that Bishop Mixa's overall contribution to the Church will one day be shown to have been a positive one.
If a person resigns, then they should have the good grace to go - even if they belatedly think their initial resignation may have been misguided. Also, for all the good that he had done during his ministry, the numerous allegations levelled against Mixa and his way of dealing with them seemed to be damaging the Church. For that reason, then, one wonders whether it was wise for the Holy Father to appoint this Emeritus Bishop of Augsburg (as orthodox and traditional as he may well be) as a member of the Pontifical Council for Health and Pastoral Care? Often, it may indeed be best to let sleeping dogs lie.