Austria probes priest sex claims


An investigation is under way in Austria after media reports of sexual misconduct at a Roman Catholic seminary at St Poelten, west of Vienna.

According to the reports, priests were photographed fondling and kissing trainee priests and pornographic images were found on the seminary computers.

The school director and his deputy have resigned.

The Austrian Bishops' Conference has promised a full and swift internal investigation.

"Anything that has to do with the practice of homosexuality or pornography has no place at a seminary for priests," it said.


Austrian news magazine Profil published the pictures of the alleged abuse at St Poelten, about 80km (50 miles) west of the capital, Vienna.

It also reported that a police investigation had uncovered as many as 40,000 images and videos - some allegedly including child pornography - on computers at the seminary.

That investigation began after allegations of child sexual abuse against the director of the seminary, Ulrich Kuechl. He has resigned but denies the allegations.

Now his deputy Wolfgang Rothe has also stepped down following the latest allegations of sexual misconduct.

Bishop Kurt Krenn, who is in charge of the St Poelten diocese, has dismissed the pictures as "childish pranks" - and called the allegations of sexual misconduct "groundless".

But the scandal is not likely to die down - with some officials in the diocese asking the Vatican to remove Bishop Krenn, whose remarks have caused an uproar in the mainly Roman Catholic country.

"Collecting child pornography cannot be dismissed as a prank," said Thomas Huber, a Green Party politician, quoted by the Associated Press news agency.

The opposition Socialists have called for a full criminal investigation.

The police have disclosed no details on their inquiries.

Austrian Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer resigned in 1998 amid allegations that he had molested young boys.

adam on Monday 12 July 2004 - 23:02:07