Church rejects blackmail bid

The Roman Catholic Graz-Seckau diocese has today (Weds) revealed how a former victim of sexual abuse by priests tried to blackmail them for one million Euros.The dioceses made the statement when it confirmed reports about a case of sexual abuse of boys by a priest in the 1970s as reported by the newspaper Kleine Zeitung.The newspaper quoted the now 46-year-old victim in today’s edition as saying the priest had abused him sexually in a meadow and he knew of 10 other victims. He said he had kept silent for so long since his parents and the other victims had refused to support him.Both Graz-Seckau Bishop Egon Kapellari and Admont monastery Abbot Bruno Hubl said however that they knew about the case. The priest in question, since deceased, had been stationed at the abbey when the abuse occurred.Diocese ombudsman Birgit Posch-Keller said the victim had contacted her in 2007 without revealing he had been a victim of sexual abuse by a priest. She said the man had told her he was thinking about writing a book about an abuse case he knew about.The man had also said the Church could spare itself embarrassment over the case if it was ready to pay up. He suggested one million Euros would do.Kapellari said: “We rejected the suggestion that the Church should pay hush money as immoral. We do not sweep anything under the carpet, but we want to protect all victims without being put under pressure.”He added that Austria’s bishops would discuss the issue of sexual abuse by priests at the next meeting of the Austrian Bishops Conference.The bishop was quoted by Catholic press agency Kathpress a few days ago as having said that the Church needed to learn to treat cases of sexual abuse by priests “candidly and without false consideration.” He called sexual abuse “a deep wound.”Psychotherapist Posch-Keller said there had been several cases of child abuse in the diocese since establishment of the ombudsman position in 1996, most of which had occurred at boarding schools.She said the subject had always been socially taboo and there had been considerable resistance to speaking out about it, even by victims.In another case, the Salzburg public prosecutor’s office said on Monday it was investigating a priest in Salzburg archdiocese in connection with child abuse.Office spokeswoman Barbara Feichtinger said the priest, a member of a religious order, had exposed himself to a seven-year-old boy and shown him obscene photos, morally endangering him.