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The television version of Hilary Mantel’s novel Wolf Hall is the latest account to challenge St Thomas More’s reputation as a courageous defender of the rights of conscience. Was he, in truth, a liberal icon, a religious fanatic or something in between?
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Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg, who, at Pope Francis’s request, is taking time out from his diocese following allegations of major financial extravagance, has admitted to committing perjury on two occasions according to the Hamburg district court prosecution department. The district court has in consequence provisionally stopped the proceedings for perjury against him, and if he pays a fine of 20,000 euros, the case will be considered closed.
This means that the bishop will have a clean (and not a criminal) record. The court’s decision is not subject to appeal and Bishop Tebartz has reportedly signalled that he will pay the fine.
Meanwhile the Limburg diocesan assembly has published a declaration saying that a fresh start with Bishop Tebartz would not be possible as the trust relationship between the bishop and the diocese had been too badly impaired.
Bishop Tebartz, who is currently residing at the Benedictine Abbey of Metten in Bavaria, has signalled several times that he would like to return to Limburg as bishop. He has the backing of the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Gerhard Müller, who has said that the bishop has “Rome’s full support”.