The bishop of Augsburg Dr. Walter Mixa offered his resignation yesterday in a letter to the Holy Father. For Capuchin friar Brother Paulus Terwitte, this step was inevitable, but should have been taken earlier. In an interview, Terwitte talks about his church's ongoing credibility problem.
Brother Paul, what do you think of this step taken by Bishop Walter Mixa?
Brother Paul: I think that this step comes too late, it should have come much earlier. Those who have made mistakes simply have to own up to them. The biggest mistake was that it was wrongly advised. He was still sitting in that prince-bishop's chair and thought, what do I care about all that, I have the power after all?.
Interviewer: Was that one now a consequence of the public prere, or has there also come a certain understanding?
Brother Paul: You actually have to see that the reality of the media in Germany is that, thank God, we have open journalism. In the meantime, the insight has probably also matured among the bishops that one can also put prere on a brother bishop by means of the media. I don't think this has ever happened before in the history of the Church, that two archbishops appear in the name of the Bavarian and German bishops' conferences and recommend a break to their brother bishops. This is such a novelty that I can only explain that really the church wanted to make it very clear: "We want to speak clearly also in our own ranks."I think this prere was necessary, that the bishop then said, now I have to resign after all. (A few years ago, the auxiliary bishop of Mainz, Francis Eisenbach, had submitted his resignation from office. At that time it was about the accusation of sexual assault. Note.d.R.)
Interviewer: Wouldn't a pause in office have been sufficient at first??
Brother Paul: No, it simply does not work. A bishop who insults victims in public simply has to resign, and it is an insult to tell people who claim to have been beaten that this is not true. Something like that simply does not work. We need an atmosphere of dialogue in the Church, where even the smallest person is given the authority to really speak. In church circles it must be learned anew that the victims do not have to climb up the ladder of an ordinariate and go through all the departments until they are allowed to speak to the bishop personally. Think of the pictures we have of Pope John Paul II. and also from Pope Benedict XVI. know, where they themselves speak to the victims! Yes, this time has come that also the bishops open their doors, that those who have to complain are also allowed to complain personally into their ear.
Interviewer: What consequences does this have now for the credibility of the church?
Brother Paul: At this point the church in Germany suffers just now. The credibility is really very much in doubt, not only because these terrible things happened to young people by priests and religious, but also because of how they deal with it. I myself have witnessed a case where the victim and his family were not heard directly enough by the bishop with his thoughts. The loss of credibility consists in the fact that the Church does not do in public what it always talks about. We are talking about life in repentance! It is necessary to recognize, to repent and to confess, and then to make a resolution of repentance. This is something that we know in the church. Only then can absolution take place, and only then will society absolve the Church in this sense, if we really want to recognize and confess everything and undertake a work of penance. The absolution will then take place, but only then.
Interviewer: What effect does Mixa's step now have in the public eye?
Brother Paul: This step will not have the effect that it might have had a month ago: One man, one word, and if I've done something wrong, I'll resign. Here again there has been some back and forth maneuvering and some politicking. Society must have the impression that it has to help the Church in its way. This impression is fatal. The media are to be congratulated that they have managed in their unyielding way to keep the topic boiling. For the church it is an indictment, and I hope that now also in other cases actually also priests and bishops say, if it is then necessary: I am now burned for the ministry and then I must resign. A good example of this is the case of Kabmann.The interview was conducted by Stephan Baur.