Norwegian Catholic Church remains silent

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Bishop threatens to destroy confidential archive

TheForeigner (theforeigner.no)

Published on Sunday, 11th April, 2010 at 14:42 under the news category, by Michael Sandelson.
Last Updated on 12th April 2010 at 10:12.

Now disgraced Georg Müller, former Catholic Bishop-prelate of Trondheim, has moved to Rome and is being sheltered by nuns, and Bishop Bernt Eidsvig refuses to break confidentiality guidelines. The Norwegian Catholic Church’s sex scandal continues.

Oath of confidentiality

“I haven’t had the opportunity to ask the victims specific questions yet, so I don’t know much about the incidents right now,” Eidsvig told Aftenposten on his return from Vienna on Thursday.

The latest two offences were committed by a priest and a layman attached to the Diocese of Oslo. Whilst the Church is to decide what to do about the second, as the perpetrator was a non-cleric, the priest admitted to the offence during a private confession. This makes the information restricted, according to the Church.

News of the scandal now shaking the Norwegian Catholic Church first came out on Wednesday. Georg Müller resigned last year after being confronted about his sexual assault of an altar boy 20 years ago.

Duty

There are now a total of nine cases known in Norway. Details of four of them are locked away in a confidential archive.

Eidsvig says he won’t accept any request by authorities to scrutinise them, telling Dagbladet he’ll shred the evidence if the Director of Public Prosecution asks. He also failed to alert police when he first heard about Müller’s crime.

Finn Wagle, former Bishop of Nidaros in Trondheim and head of the Bishops in the Norwegian Church, thinks the Catholic Church’s silence is a crime.

“It would have been reported to the police immediately if this had happened in our religious community,” he says.

Whilst Anniken Huitfeldt, the Minister of Culture, believes the Church’s duty to prevent the sexual assault of children weighs heavier than their code of silence.

Different policy

According to Ståle Eskeland, professor of law at the University of Oslo, all of the cases that have come to light so far are time-barred. This means the Church has no duty to report them to police.

In Denmark, Bishop Czeslaw Kozon has still decided to allow lawyers to look at the 18 reported cases there, even though they are also time-barred. The Catholic Church is considering investigating all of their priests, writes Aftenposten.

“We’ll look at all the information quickly to consider whether we should begin investigations,” Police Commissioner Johan Reimann in Copenhagen tells Radio Denmark.

However, Bernt Eidsvig claims confession would be impossible if priests had to report sexual assault to police, instead of just encouraging and supporting offenders to atone for their sins by doing so themselves.

“The opportunity to influence people would disappear, as nobody would take Confession,” he says.

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