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World News

German bishop under fire in leaked Church report

BERLIN (Reuters) - The German Catholic Church alleged that a disgraced bishop who resigned earlier this year was an alcoholic and made sexual advances to young priests, according to a leaked report quoted by German newspapers on Monday.

The newspapers Sueddeutsche Zeitung and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said the report to the Vatican concerned Walter Mixa, who quit as bishop of Augsburg in April after admitting he had slapped children decades ago.

Last week Mixa reopened the dispute over his resignation by accusing fellow bishops of conspiring to force him out and using a flimsy allegation of sexual abuse as a “trump card” to get Pope Benedict to accept it.

On Monday, the two newspapers quoted the report as saying Mixa, who has said he wants to be reinstated, drank excessively and citing a young priest as saying the bishop had sexually approached him during a holiday.

Mixa’s former diocese declined to comment on the report, but a leading layman in Augsburg told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung the former bishop must leave the area so calm could be restored.

“Our problem is not the bishop himself, but the infighting between his supporters and enemies,” said Helmut Mangold, the head of the Augsburg council of lay Catholics.

An editorial in the Frankfurter Allgemeine said the Mixa case highlighted serious leadership failures in the German Church and said: “The whole thing is so distasteful that a Catholic could hardly wish to see the full truth come out.”

Earlier this year, the Church was buffeted by revelations of sexual abuse in some schools and has pledged to cooperate with an official inquiry into the scandals.

The leaked report added fuel to a controversy between Catholics who want to see Mixa sent to a monastery and supporters who have rallied to the outspoken bishop.

PREVIOUSLY SECRET ALLEGATIONS

According to the newspapers, the report on Mixa was sent by the German hierarchy to the Vatican before Pope Benedict accepted his resignation in May, indicating the German-born pontiff was aware of these previously secret allegations.

Last week, Mixa, 69, accused two senior German archbishops of forcing him out of office by spreading unsubstantiated rumours that he had sexually abused minors and tricking Benedict into using them as a basis to retire him.

The bishops concerned -- Robert Zollitsch and Reinhard Marx, the heads of the German and Bavarian bishops’ conferences respectively -- denied the accusations.

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung noted that sexual advances to young priests would not be considered abuse of minors, but would not be compatible with Catholic morality.

In recent months, three Irish bishops have stepped down for mishandling sexual abuse cases and a Belgian bishop quit after admitting he had sexually abused boys.

Mixa was the first German bishop to resign. An investigation by the Augsburg prosecutor into allegations against him of sexual abuse of minors found they were baseless.

(Reporting by Max Chrambach; editing by Tom Heneghan and Andrew Dobbie)

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