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Speedy response to Austrian sex scandal reflects seriousness

An official has revealed that the seriousness of the circumstances are reflected in the unusual haste with which the Vatican appointed an apostolic visitor (or investigator) to go to the Austrian seminary where prosecutors charged a 27-year-old Polish seminarian with possession and distribution of child pornography.

Catholic News Service quotes an unnamed official who said the seized photographs "show widespread corruption within the seminary," and that :the Holy Father must have been horrified""

The agency reports that the appointment of the apostolic visitor came less than a week after Bishop Krenn announced he had established a commission to investigate what had occurred at the seminary and only one day after Austrian prosecutors charged a 27-year-old Polish seminarian with possession and distribution of child pornography.

Pope John Paul II's speed in ordering a special investigation into an Austrian diocese and its seminary reflects the seriousness of the allegations of sexual misconduct there as well as the formal request of the Austrian bishops' conference, Vatican officials said.

"There was an internal investigation, and both the investigator appointed by the local bishop and the Austrian bishops' conference requested the nomination of an apostolic visitor," said Passionist Fr Ciro Benedettini, Vatican spokesman.

The Vatican announced on Tuesday that Pope John Paul had named Austrian Bishop Klaus Kung of Feldkirch to conduct an apostolic visitation of the diocese and, particularly, the seminary. Earlier, a spokesman said Bishop Kurt Krenn of Sankt Polten had begun his own investigation of the situation.

Earlier an an Austrian magazine published pictures of priests and students kissing and fondling each other. Austrian authorities said the images had been found along with more than 40,000 photos and videos -- including child pornography -- on seminary computers.

A Vatican official, who asked not to be named, said the publication of photographs showing members of the seminary staff and students engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior "is scandalous in the most literal sense."

Meanwhile in ongoing publicity associated with revelations of alleged sex abuse by members of the Salesian order, The Age reports today that a mother who attributes her son's drug-related serious illness to sex abuse by a former Salesian Provincial yesterday criticised the priest for comparing himself publicly with the wrongly accused Jesus Christ.

"It is an insult to God, never mind Catholics," said the woman, who asked not to be identified.

Her son received a $35,600 settlement from the Salesians in 2000, with denial of liability, over alleged abuse at the Salesians' Rupertswood college in Sunbury during 1978 and 1979.

"How dare he compare himself to Jesus . . . I find the whole thing extraordinary," she said, praising the actions of current Provincial Fr Ian Murdoch.

"It is mind boggling," she said, particularly as the head of the order in Australia, Fr Ian Murdoch, had done so much to combat abuse and had made a stand against Fr Fox returning to Australia as a priest unless he agreed to adhere to certain conditions.

Fr Fox, who for six years was head of the 115-member Salesian order in Australia and the Pacific, and was rector of the Salesians in Fiji, was reported in The Age yesterday as denying any abuse. He said he could not recall the alleged victims when the names were told to him.

Asked why he would have become the target of false allegations, he said Jesus was probably asking himself the same question on the cross. "It is the same situation . . . to be falsely accused," he said.

Fr Fox's job in Rome as a member of the executive of the Salesian World Commission for Social Communication and secretary to the commission's general counsellor has been welcomed elsewhere. A website containing a Salesian bulletin describes Fr Fox's appointment as a loss for the Australian province but "the worldwide society's gain".

Vatican: Speedy response to Austrian sex scandal reflects seriousness (Catholic News Service 21/7/04)
Priest criticised for Christ comparison (The Age 22/7/04)

Pope names bishop to look into scandal at Austrian seminary (CathNews 21/7/04)
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)

Another top Salesian speaks to The Age (CathNews 21/7/04)
Salesians ponder big picture (The Age 20/7/04)
Salesian provincial speaks on sex-abuse scandal (Catholic World News 19/7/04)
Mission to defrock sex abuser (The Age 19/7/04)
Salesian Provincial breaks silence on sex abuse (CathNews 19/7/04)
Salesian principal faces abuse claim (CathNews 15/7/04)
Allegation causes principal to stand aside (ABC North & West SA 14/7/04)
Salesian priest leaves Samoa (CathNews 9/7/04)
Salesian Works in Samoa: Moamoa Theological College
Convicted priest continues direct contact with children (Samoa News/Tala Nei News)
Shelter for the shamed? (The Australian 6/7/04)
Abuser 'not moved to avoid police' (CathNews 1/7/04)
Priest warned students of perils ahead (The Age 1/7/04)
Probe into sex abuse of wards (Daily Telegraph 1/7/04)
Samoa considers deporting priests (The Age 30/6/04)
Salesians 'knew of Klep allegations' (CathNews 29/6/04)
Salesian arrested at Melbourne Airport (CathNews 28/6/04)
Counting the cost of a priest's bad faith (The Age 26/6/04)
Father Klep refused bail (ABC Radio PM 25/6/04)
Father Klep back in Australia (ABC Radio The World Today 25/6/04)
Priest charged with sex offences (AAP/The Age 25/6/04)
Paedophile priest refused bail (Herald-Sun 25/6/04)

22 Jul 2004