Prominent Catholic Bishop Walter Mixa rejected all accusations of child abuse against him in a personal message on Thursday. The bishop offered an open invititation to his accusers to talk about their pains.
Bishop Mixa said he was 'deeply moved' by the claims
The bishop of Augsburg, Walter Mixa, has been embroiled in a child abuse scandal since Wednesday. One day later, he addressed the public, rejecting all accusations that he physically abused children while a parish priest at an orphanage in southern Germany in the 1970s.
"I assure you once again that I never - at any time - used violence against children and adolescents living in the St. Josef orphanage in Schrobenhausen," Mixa wrote in a personal statement released by his diocese.
Mixa added that he was ready and willing to meet with those who had made the allegations, to speak of their "memories, experiences, and criticisms" of their time in Schrobenhausen.
"From the beginning, the wellbeing and future of children, adolescents and families has been of utmost importance for my spiritual work," he said, adding that the allegations raised against him had "moved him deeply."
Germans have staged protests against the abuse
Call to step down
Before releasing the statement, Mixa had been under increasing pressure to address the affair publicly, with several organizations demanding that he distance himself from the allegations as soon as possible.
The Catholic lay organization, "We Are Church," has demanded that Mixa leave his office until his name has been cleared.
"Until the allegations have been cleared, we believe preliminary action should be taken against the bishop. Any priest facing such abuse charges would be suspended immediately. There should be no difference simply because Mixa is a bishop," organization official Annegret Laakmann said Thursday on German public radio.
Earlier on Thursday - when Mixa had only voiced his innocence through his press office - the leader of the German Catholic Bishops' Conference, Father Hans Langendoerfer, said that German bishops supported their colleague's statement.
At the same time, Langendoerfer expressed his regret for the "culture of looking the other way" that has plagued the Catholic Church.
Catholic Church deep in scandal
While Mixa is the first German bishop to be accused of child abuse, several German priests are facing similar allegations.
German Cardinal Karl Lehmann, in an interview published in the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Thursday, said the Catholic Church was now being measured by its own standards.
Cardinal Lehmann calls the scandal a 'boomerang effect'
"The cases that are being uncovered are acting like a boomerang, and there is a lot now that is coming to light," Lehmann said.
The cardinal said one of the main problems with church policy was its underestimation of the propensity of pedophiles to commit further acts of sexual abuse.
"For a long time, the Church has implemented the unforgiveable practice of simply relocating priests who had been suspected - and even convicted - of sexual abuse. It's now time that these priests accept responsibility for their actions, before both the Church and public authorities," Lehmann said.
Editor: Susan Houlton