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Originally published Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 10:05 PM

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German bishop accused of child beating offers to resign

A German bishop accused of beating children decades ago when he was a priest has offered his resignation to Pope Benedict XVI, the diocese in Augsburg said Thursday.

The New York Times

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The Associated Press

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BERLIN — A German bishop accused of beating children decades ago when he was a priest has offered his resignation to Pope Benedict XVI, the diocese in Augsburg said Thursday.

The accused man, Bishop Walter Mixa, was one of the church's most prominent and outspoken conservatives in Germany, and he aggressively defended himself for weeks against charges of physically abusing children in a Bavarian orphanage.

Accusations also surfaced of financial irregularities at the orphanage's foundation. A lawyer hired by the foundation has raised questions about thousands of dollars spent on wine, art, jewelry and a tanning bed while Mixa was chairman of the foundation's board in the 1990s. Mixa was a priest in the town of Schrobenhausen from 1975 to 1996.

Bishop Mixa sent a letter to the pope Wednesday asking to be relieved of his office, the diocese said. Although he was not accused of sexual abuse, his case made headlines across Germany for weeks and focused more negative attention on a church already shaken by scandal.

The pope has to accept a resignation before it is official. The Vatican does not comment on resignations not yet accepted by the pope, said a spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi.

The focus of the Roman Catholic Church scandal in Germany has been sexual abuse, but corporal punishment in church-run institutions has also attracted public attention. Benedict's brother, the Rev. Georg Ratzinger, apologized in March for slapping children while director of a choir in the Bavarian city of Regensburg, where he worked from 1964 to 1994.

In another measure of the scandal's toll, the Vatican said Thursday that the pope had accepted the resignation of Bishop James Moriarty of Kildare and Leighlin in Ireland.

Moriarty is the third Irish bishop to step down since December; two more Irish bishops — Eamonn Walsh and Ray Field — have offered to resign and the pope is expected to agree. There are also mounting calls for Ireland's top prelate, Cardinal Sean Brady, to leave because of his handling of the case of a notorious child rapist.

Moriarty, 73, said he was stepping down because he realized "renewal must begin with accepting responsibility for the past."

"The truth is that the long struggle of survivors to be heard and respected by church authorities has revealed a culture within the church that many would simply describe as un-Christian," Moriarty said in a statement.

He acknowledged in December he didn't challenge the Dublin Archdiocese's practice of concealing child-abuse complaints from police. He served as an auxiliary Dublin bishop from 1991 to 2002.

Moriarty's resignation was the latest reverberation of the abuse scandal in Ireland, where two government reports last year revealed the sexual abuse of tens of thousands of children and a widespread cover-up. In March, Benedict sent a letter to Irish Catholics in which he apologized to the victims and expressed "shame and remorse."

On Thursday, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales issued a statement in which they apologized to victims of sexual abuse by priests and called the abuse crisis a "profound scandal" that had brought "deep shame to the whole church."

The English and Welsh bishops condemned the actions of abusive priests, but they also said higher church authorities had failed to act.

The pope has yet to address the scandal in Germany.

Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.

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