German Bishop of Limburg Dr Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, is facing prosecution over signed statements he made in an effort to silence media critical of his behaviour involving a First Class flight to India. The Bishop submitted a request to court to stop the magazine “Der SPIEGEL” from publishing comments that accused him of lying about a First Class flight to visit the poor in India.
Hamburg authorities have now called for prosecution, which may result in a fine or imprisonment, or – if the Bishop rejects these – a formal court case. If the Bishop accepts the fine, he admits to having lied under de facto-oath.
The flight in question took place a few months ago, and was booked to be Business Class. The Bishop received an upgrade on bonus miles of his Vicar General to First Class. When approached (or more like assaulted) by Der SPIEGEL and asked “Did you fly First Class to India?” he replied “We flew Business Class.” After that, he submitted a formal request to courts in Hamburg to have the magazine stop publishing contradictory and defamatory statements, signing a statement saying that he flew Business Class.
The Bishop faces extreme criticism over diocesan building projects, spending tens of millions of Euros. Press and many laity and diocesan clergy are calling for his resignation.
My opinion on this is the following:
First, Der SPIEGEL is not to be trusted on anything to do with the Church. They are incredibly biased and after headlines. Therefore, I take everything they say or do in that regard with a huge pot of salt.
Second, the words the Bishop used to say “We flew Business Class” (“Business Class sind wir geflogen” in the German original) on tape could possibly be understood to mean “We were booked on Business Class”, given syntax of the answer and the assault-like context of the question.
Third, I have no problem with an upgrade to First Class on a long-haul flight, even for a Bishop. It shouldn’t be the rule, of course, but in certain cases I think it is fitting. He has to be well-rested and fresh for a long schedule, and if it’s all done on bonus miles (and supplemented by personal funds) it is fine, in my view.