Calls mount for bishop's
Austrian cleric resists amid child porn scandal at
By WILLIAM J. KOLE: The Associated Press: July 15, 2004
VIENNA, Austria - An official with the Archdiocese of Vienna urged the Vatican
yesterday to oust a Roman Catholic bishop in charge of a seminary where
candidates for the priesthood hoarded child pornography and photos of themselves
kissing and fondling each other.
The cleric, Bishop Kurt Krenn,
dismissed the photos as part of a "schoolboy prank" and accused critics of
exaggerating the case - the worst church scandal in Austria since allegations of
pedophilia brought down a cardinal nearly a decade ago.
examined hard drives on computers seized at the seminary in St. Poelten, 50
miles west of Vienna, as part of a child pornography inves-tigation.
Officials said the discs contained about 40,000 photographs and nu-merous
videos, including child por-nography and photos of young semi-narians kissing
and fondling each other and their older instructors and engaging in sex
As some of the photos began ap-pearing in Austrian
newsmagazines - depicting students in sexual situa-tions while clad in black
shirts and priestly collars - calls mounted for Krenn to resign.
if Krenn steps down "will an extensive investigation be possible," said Helmut
Schueller, the Vienna Archdioceses ombudsman for victims of sexual
The seminary's director, the Rev. Ulrich Kuechl, already has
resigned along with his deputy, Wolfgang Rothe.
But Krenn, 68, refused
to step down and rebuffed his critics.
In a nationally televised
inter-view, he conceded overall responsi-bility for the seminary, but rebuked
the national bishops -conference for pressing for his resignation and in-sisted
the furor was overblown.
"Although these things naturally fall into my
competence, I had nothing to do with them," he said, calling the uproar "an
exaggeration" and "a diocesan matter."
The Vatican, which condemns
homosexuality, has refused to comment.
The porn discovery, which was
disclosed earlier this week, has scandalized many in the overwhelmingly Catholic
Church leaders are still trying to heal divisions caused by
allegations that the late Cardinal Hermann Groer molested students at an all
male boarding school in the 1970s. Groer, who died last year, was forced by the
Vatican to resign in 1995 after the charges first surfaced.
scandal has troubled Austrians on two fronts: Many are angered by the child
pornography, which authorities say was downloaded mostly from a Web site in
Poland, and the faithful are disturbed and disillusioned at the notion of
prospective young priests cavorting with their elders.
opens "a vexing debate over when borders between homosexuality and pedophilia,
between the voluntary sexual practices of adults and the sexual abuse of
children, become blurred," columnist Thomas Kramar wrote in a commentary for the
daily Die Presse.
Krenn, whose close ties to the Vatican led to a
visit by Pope John Paul II to his diocese in 1998, was criticized at the time
for defending Groer and insisting that the cardinal was innocent of the
Krenn said published photos showing seminary
students French--kissing each other were taken at the end of a holiday
celebration and were merely traditional "Christmas kisses.
absolutely nothing at all to do with homosexuality," and those involved will not
be punished, he said.
Schueller, the archdiocese ombudsman, rejected
that notion yesterday, telling Austrian radio: "It is completely clear that the
photos concerned homoerotic encounters."
Many were taken by an
unidentified 33-year-old Polish-born priest at the seminary who used a digital
camera, according to authorities in the province of Lower Austria.
police spokesman said it could be difficult to prove who was responsible for
downloading the child pornography because the computers were