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Catholic World News News Feature

Austrian bishop calls for colleague to resign July 15, 2004

Austrian Bishop Alois Schwarz has asked the Vatican to deal quickly with a sex scandal at a seminary in the Sankt-Poelten diocese even as an official of the Vienna archdiocese called for Sankt-Poelten's bishop to resign.

A scandal has erupted over Sankt-Poelten's seminary where charges of homosexual activity between priests and seminarians and of child pornography has roiled Austrian Catholics. The magazine Profil has published photos of priests from the seminary kissing and fondling seminarians, while computers seized by police reportedly have been found to contain thousands of images of child pornography.

Bishop Kurt Krenn of Sankt-Poelten has been quoted in Austrian media as dismissing the activity as "boyish pranks." Krenn said published photos of seminarians French-kissing each other were merely traditional "Christmas kisses." He said, "It had absolutely nothing at all to do with homosexuality," and no one would be punished. His dismissal of the scandal has prompted nationwide calls for his resignation or removal.

Bishop Schwarz said the controversy could only be resolved by the Vatican, which alone has the power to have a bishop removed from office. "Like many people in Austria, I am also stunned by the events portrayed in the priestly seminary in Sankt-Poelten and their repercussions on the church in all of Austria," Schwarz said in a statement. "I am hoping for swift decisions that leave no questions open."

The bishop's statement comes a day after the Vienna archdiocese's ombudsman for victims of sex abuse called for Krenn's removal from office. Helmut Schueller said that an extensive investigation will be possible only if Krenn is removed from office. Krenn's spokesman, Michael Dinhobl, told the Austria Press Agency the bishop launched his own investigation Wednesday. The internal probe by a six-member committee was an attempt "to examine the allegations ... in the light of church morals and canon law," Dinhobl said.

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