Corrected: Norwegian bishop who resigned in 2009 was abuser

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Wed Apr 7, 2010 8:59am EDT

(Corrects to add surname of cardinal in paragraph 6)


OSLO (Reuters) – The Norwegian Catholic Church and the Vatican acknowledged on Wednesday that a bishop who resigned last year did so after it was discovered that he had sexually abused an altar boy two decades earlier.

The Vatican issued a statement confirming a post on the Web site of Norway’s Church about the circumstances behind the resignation last June of Bishop Georg Mueller of Trondheim.

The abuse took place some 20 years ago when Mueller was a priest there.

The case is the latest allegation of child abuse faced by the Catholic Church, following accusations made in Ireland, the U.S., Germany and other countries.

Mueller’s is one of the few cases in Europe where a bishop resigned over committing sexual abuse in his past.

Archbishop Juliusz Paetz of Poznan, Poland, resigned in 2002 and in 1995 Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer of Vienna stepped down in 1995, both over allegations of sexually abusing seminarians.

In June 2009, the Vatican announced that Pope Benedict had accepted Mueller’s resignation but it did not specify why.

As is its custom, the Vatican at the time cited only Canon (Church) law 401/2, which states that a bishop should offer his resignation to the pope in cases where he has become “unsuited for the fulfillment of his office.”

The Church in Norway and the Vatican acknowledged the details of the case only after they were reported on Wednesday by the Norwegian daily Adresseavisen.

Mueller, who was born in Germany, was bishop of Trondeim from 1997 to 2009.

The Vatican said Church authorities found out about the abuse in January 2009. Mueller offered his resignation in May of that year and “the pope quickly accepted it.”

The bishop later underwent therapy and is no longer involved in pastoral activity, the Vatican said.

The victim in now in his 30s and has chosen to remain anonymous. The case happened too long ago to lead to a criminal prosecution under Norwegian law.

(Reporting by Gwladys Fouche; additional reporting by Philip Pullella in Rome; Editing by Matthew Jones)

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