Norway’s Catholic Church reports new abuse claims

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Norwegian Catholic bishop Bernt Eidsvig faces the press at the airport in Oslo, Norway, Thursday April 8, 2010 after traveling abroad, to face allegations of child abuse by members of the catholic church in Norway. Eidsvig, said Thursday he has received e-mails alleging new cases of abuse. But he says the nature and seriousness of the allegations remain unclear. The church disclosed Wednesday that the reason Eidsvig’s precedessor, 58-year-old Georg Mueller, resigned in June was that he had admitted to abusing a boy about 20 years earlier, when he was a priest. (AP Photo/Scanpix, Lise Aserud)

Associated Press

08 April 2010

By IAN MacDOUGALL (AP) –

 OSLO — Norway’s Catholic Church has received new allegations of clergy abuse after revealing that its former bishop had admitted to molesting a minor in the early 1990s, a church official said Thursday.

 The current bishop, Bernt Eidsvig, told The Associated Press he had received e-mails alleging new cases of abuse, but said the nature and seriousness of the claims remain unclear.

 “There may be something very serious there. But there may also be things there that lunatics made up,” Eidsvig said. “Whether it is abuse of minors or stupid priests doing things which are sinful but not illegal or things between adults — I can’t say yet.”

 Church officials disclosed on Wednesday that the reason Eidsvig’s predecessor, 58-year-old Georg Mueller, resigned in June was that he had admitted to abusing a boy about 20 years earlier, when he was a priest.

 It was the latest in a string of abuse cases rocking the Catholic Church across Europe in recent weeks.

 In Spain on Wednesday, a Catholic clergyman was convicted of sexual abuse for molesting a 10 year-old girl and an 11-year-old girl at a school there. Identified only as F.V.T., the clergyman was given a two-year suspended prison sentence and fined.

 The church abuse scandals as a whole are causing Pope Benedict XVI great pain, the Vatican’s No. 2 official told the ANSA news agency Thursday.

 But Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state, insisted the church has the “inner strength” necessary to keep up its mission, according to the report.

 In Norway, church officials said Mueller had been relieved of his pastoral duties after his resignation.

 However, the former bishop frequently participated in celebrating Mass at the chapel of a church-affiliated hospital in Germany after he moved into an apartment on the premises in December, hospital spokesman Roland Knillmann told the AP.

 He said Mueller held no official position at the hospital in the northwestern town of Georgmarienhuette.

 “He did not have any kind of contract or a job with us, he was here strictly as a private person,” Knillmann said. “Right now he is not here with us and he will not move back in here.”

 He said the hospital was aware that Mueller was no longer a bishop, but did not know why until Wednesday’s announcement in Norway.

 Knillmann refused to disclose information about Mueller’s current whereabouts, saying the former bishop had requested that his privacy be respected. Members of Mueller’s order said Wednesday that he had also spent time in Rome and Jerusalem.

 Knillmann said he did not have any information about whether Mueller had come into contact with minors during his time at the hospital.

 “We had no reason whatsoever to think of questioning that,” he said.

 Norwegian church officials said that the details surrounding Mueller’s case had been kept quiet at the request of the victim, who has not been identified.

 “He told me very clearly that this was not to be made known. He did not want to have a career as a victim,” Eidsvig said.

The church changed its position after an acquaintance of the victim leaked the details surrounding Mueller’s resignation to a local newspaper, Eidsvig said.

The church also did not report the allegations to police because church officials claimed the case was beyond the statute of limitations.

However, police in Trondheim — the Norwegian city where Mueller was based — said they were investigating a case of alleged sexual abuse involving a clergyman dating back about 20 years. Geir Ole Momyr, an officer working on the case, declined to say whether the probe was targeting Mueller or whether the statute of limitations had run out.

Momyr would only say that the case involved “sexual abuse of a person under 16” and that police had not received any other allegations of child abuse by clergymen in the city.

Associated Press writers Melissa Eddy in Berlin and Harold Heckle in Spain contributed to this report.

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