German Bishop Quits Amid Sex Abuse Allegations

Reuters/April 16, 2002

Mainz, Germany -- A German bishop resigned on Tuesday after allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman during an exorcism, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Church in Mainz said.

A spokesman for the archdiocese of Mainz said Auxiliary Bishop Franziskus Eisenbach, 58, had denied the allegations and his decision to resign was not an admission of guilt.

The Roman Catholic Church has been rocked by a series of scandals after a number high-profile figures have been linked to sexual abuse.

The Vatican (news - web sites) said on Tuesday it hoped an extraordinary meeting of U.S. cardinals next week would help restore trust in the American Roman Catholic Church after pedophilia scandals.

Juergen Strickstrock, a spokesman for the archdiocese of Mainz, told Reuters Eisenbach had "decided to resign for the good of the congregation because of the negative effect of the publicity." He would take up other duties in the diocese.

"The woman was a Protestant and wished to convert. At the same time she had private visions that she couldn't cope with. The auxiliary bishop was familiar with the spiritual issues involved," Strickstrock said.

He said Eisenbach accompanied the woman through the process of trying to exorcise her demons and converting to Catholicism.

"During this long process there was close physical proximity. But contact was not sexual in a narrow sense."

The woman, a science professor in her 40s, lodged a complaint with prosecutors in Koblenz, the state capital of the Rhineland Palatinate, in September 2000.

A spokesman for prosecutors in Koblenz said Mainz prosecutors had been in charge of the investigation but decided not to proceed with charges. Mainz prosecutors were not available for comment.

An official Church investigation was subsequently carried out, Strickstrock said, but Vatican investigators had decided there were no grounds for further action.

Eisenbach was named auxiliary bishop in 1988. Until 1993 he worked in spiritual care for young people before setting up a church body to guide people working in the pastoral care area.

The archdiocese of Mainz is one of the most important in the German church, home to 814,000 Catholics and the two historic cathedrals of Mainz and Worms.

Karl Lehmann, archbishop of Mainz and one of Germany's best-known churchmen, said he was saddened by Eisenbach's decision to resign.

"The decision by Auxiliary Bishop Franziskus Eisenbach to resign, even though no criminal trial had been initiated and no guilt can be apportioned to him, is a bitter loss for the archdiocese," Lehmann said in a statement.

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