Vatican investigates Austrian child porn scandal

/ Source: The Associated Press

Facing rising protests in Austria, the Vatican named a special inspector Tuesday for an Austrian seminary implicated in a child pornography scandal.

Pope John Paul II designated Bishop Klaus Kueng of Feldkirch, Austria, as an “apostolic visitor” for the diocese of St. Poelten and its seminary.

After an investigation of the situation, he will report back to the Vatican.

The move came amid demands in Austria that the bishop in charge of the seminary, Kurt Krenn, resign after authorities uncovered some 40,000 pornographic photos and numerous videos at the seminary.

The Vatican issued a one-line announcement but made no comment on a case that has become highly embarrassing for the Vatican and the church in overwhelmingly Roman Catholic Austria.

Close Vatican ties
Krenn has close ties to the Vatican and arranged for a visit to St. Poelten by John Paul during a 1998 pilgrimage to Austria.

Krenn has acknowledged overall responsibility for the seminary but has refused to step down.

Kueng is a member of Opus Dei, the conservative Catholic organization. His diocese of Feldkirch is in the southwestern Austrian province of Voralberg.

The Archdiocese of Vienna said in a statement Tuesday that Kueng’s appointment means an end to an internal inquiry that Krenn had ordered into the affair.

It said Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, Austria’s top churchman, had expressed satisfaction that the Vatican had “quickly handled” the burgeoning scandal by appointing an inspector. Kueng was expected to begin his investigation Tuesday evening, the archdiocese said.

The Vatican appoints an apostolic visitor when it receives allegations of “grave irregularities” at an institution of a diocese. It is not the first time it has done so in Austria.

In 1998, an American Benedictine monk was sent on an inspection tour of a monastery where an Austrian cardinal, Hans Hermann Groer, was accused of sexually molesting young boys. The American’s findings were never made public, but Groer later relinquished all his duties in the church and left Austria in exile.