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Pope names bishop to look into scandal at Austrian seminary

Pope John Paul II has appointed a special investigator to gather information on the pornography and sex scandal in an Austrian seminary.

In a one-line statement, the Vatican announced on Tuesday that the Holy Father is sending Austrian Bishop Klaus Kung of Feldkirch, a member of Opus Dei, as apostolic visitor to the Diocese of Sankt Polten and the seminary there.

An apostolic visitation is a formal Vatican investigation into a particular, usually serious, problem in a local church, diocese or religious order. The visitor's mandate generally involves investigating and evaluating facts and reporting back to the Holy See, possibly with recommendations for a course of action.

The seminary in Sankt Polten, 80 kilometres west of Vienna, was the subject of international media attention last week when Austrian media published pictures of priests and students engaged in sexual acts. Austrian authorities said the images had been found along with more than 40,000 photos and videos, which included child pornography, on seminary computers.

On Monday state prosecutors charged a 27-year-old Polish seminarian with possession and distribution of child pornography, which under a new law in Austria carries a maximum two-year prison sentence and a fine.

Though Austrian authorities are continuing their investigation into those responsible for the downloading and storage of child pornography, the Vatican has responded with its own inquiry.

Passionist Fr Ciro Benedettini, a Vatican spokesman, said an apostolic visitation is "a pastoral visit, not a juridical one."

"It's to understand what has happened; it's done when things are not clear," he told Catholic News Service.

Once enough information has been gathered, the apostolic visitor will draw up a report "to give to the Vatican and from that the pope will then make a decision" on how to act, Fr Benedettini explained.

Pope names bishop to look into scandal at Austrian seminary (Catholic News Service 20/7/04)

Other Pontifical Acts (Vatican Information Service 20/7/04)
Vatican sends investigator to Austrian diocese (Catholic World News 20/7/04)
Pope Names Investigator for Austrian Sex Scandal (Reuters 20/7/04)
Vatican Enters Austria Seminary Dispute (The Guardian/Associated Press 20/7/04)
Austrian chancellor incensed by priest sex scandal (Reuters 17/7/04)
Austrian bishops await Vatican move on scandal (Catholic World News 16/7/04)
St. Pölten and Gomorrah? ( 20/7/04)
Vatican investigates Austrian child porn scandal (Associated Press/MSNBC 20/7/04)
Austria probes seminary sex claims (CathNews 13/7/04)
Priests 'In Orgy' at Seminary (The Scotsman 12/7/04)

Reporting from Peru; Clergy sex abuse reports rock Europe (National Catholic Reporter 16/7/04)
California's Catholic bishops endorse challenge to abuse claims law (Associated Press/Sacramento Bee 17/7/04)
Blessed are the bankrupt (The Tablet 17/7/04)
Bishops back constitutional challenge to California sex abuse law (Catholic News Service 15/7/04)

21 Jul 2004