German Bishop Seen As Ally Of The Pope Accused Of Ritual Beatings Of Children

Boy, this just keeps keeping worse, doesn't it? I would like to add this perspective: In the first half of the last century, it was extremely common

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Boy, this just keeps keeping worse, doesn't it? I would like to add this perspective: In the first half of the last century, it was extremely common for Catholic parents to pledge their first-born son to the priesthood and the first-born daughter to the sisterhood. That must have made for some very angry, repressed people who then took their rage out on children:

The child abuse scandal rocking the Catholic Church widened yesterday as a leading German bishop personally appointed by Pope Benedict was accused of ritually beating and punching children at a church-run home during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Five former residents of the St Josef's home in Bavaria submitted written statements to Germany's Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper claiming the Bishop of Augsburg, Walter Mixa, a controversial conservative churchman appointed by the Pope in 2005, used to hit and degrade them during punishment sessions at the home.

Bishop Mixa's diocese yesterday rejected the allegations as "absurd, untrue and obviously invented in order to defame the bishop".

The allegations emerged as the Vatican prepares a legal defence it hopes will shield the Pope from a lawsuit in the US seeking to have him answer questions under oath related to an abuse scandal. Court documents obtained by the Associated Press show that Vatican lawyers plan to argue that the Pope has immunity as head of state and that American bishops who oversaw abusive priests were not employees of the Vatican. The Vatican is trying to fend off the first US case to reach the stage of determining whether victims have a claim against the Vatican for allegedly failing to alert police or the public about Roman Catholic priests who molested children.

In Germany, Hildegard Sedlmayr, 48, a former resident of the home in the Bavarian town of Schrobenhausen, where Bishop Mixa was a priest, told Süddeutsche Zeitung that at age 15, the bishop dragged her from her bed and punched her repeatedly on the arm.

"He grabbed me by the nightshirt, pulled me up out of my bed and punched me repeatedly on the upper arm. Afterwards it was covered in bruises," she said. "The two years at St Josef's were the worst in my life."

Another former St Josef's resident, named as Thomas Huber, said he was in pain for "several days" after Bishop Mixa flogged him. "I was made to bend over a bench, then Mixa hit me 35 times with a carpet beater," he said.

Three other former residents said Bishop Mixa habitually punished children with slaps to the face, punches to the arms, and beatings. The former residents claimed that Catholic nuns who ran the home also hit children with brooms and wooden shoes.

UPDATE: Church-related abuse was apparently widespread.

A hotline set up by the Catholic Church in Germany to counsel victims of sexual abuse was overrun on its first day, with almost 4,500 calls. Further allegations have continued to emerge even as Chancellor Angela Merkel says the church is taking "necessary measures."

It was a much criticized idea. Earlier this month, Germany's Catholic Church announced that it was planning a hotline for sexual abuse victims to call should they be in need of counselling or advice. Given the ever-increasing wave of abuse allegations being levelled at clerics in Germany this spring, however, many critics doubted whether victims would phone up the organization that was responsible for their suffering in the first place.

The critics were wrong. On Wednesday, the first full day of the hotline's operation, fully 4,459 people phoned up -- far more than the therapists hired to man the phones could handle. Indeed, they were only able to conduct 162 counselling sessions, ranging from five minutes to an hour in length. Andreas Zimmer, head of the project in the Bishopric of Trier, admitted that he wasn't prepared for "that kind of an onslaught." Zimmer insisted, however, that those who leave a message will be called back.

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