Parish wants sex abuse priest back

Parishioners have called for the return of a priest, suspended for sexually abusing a 17-year-old boy.Ernest Theußl, chairman of the town council in the priest’s parish of Deutschlandsberg, Styria said no one could complain about the priest, who was punished 12 years ago for sexual abuse of the boy but had admitted his guilt.Theußl said: “We knew about his offence from the beginning, but we have had a good experience with him and want it to continue. We believe that forgiveness is appropriate in non-violent cases like his.”The parishioners have called upon Graz Bishop Egon Kapellari to reinstall the shamed priest. They have been supported by parishes in Frauental, Freiland, Osterwitz and St. Oswald.Georg Plank, a spokesman for the Graz-Seckau diocese, said the bishop would take the parishes’ request seriously and examine the priest’s case carefully.                Plank added that the bishop would also examine the suspension of priests in Graz-Puntigam and Gußwerk.Gußwerk Mayor Michael Wallmann said no one knew why its priest had been suspended. The priest had literally vanished overnight, he added.Meanwhile, a special hotline set up to give victims of violence and sexual abuse by clergy of the Catholic Church in Austria a chance to talk about their ordeals was used by 50 callers on its first day of opening.A spokesman for “Betroffene kirchlicher Gewalt” (Victims of Clerical Violence) said two days ago that 50 people had called the number on the previous day and several e-mails had arrived as well.He said many mentioned cases dated back more than 20 years and could therefore not be subject to court proceedings because of the statute of limitations.The plan was, he added, to keep the hotline – available between 9am and midday at +43 699 103 693 69 – for at least two months.Vienna Church officials said 11 people had called the youth and family issues office’s hotline (+43 1 707 70 00, from 9am to 5pm) to report violence or sexual abuse at clerical institutions.Vienna Boys Choir President Walter Nettig recently announced that the choir’s hotline for victims of abuse at the institution had received 11 calls.Most of the people who called had mentioned “overly strict educational methods” but not sexual abuse, he said, adding that the choir was willing to help victims who sought therapy to overcome what they had experienced as choristers at the world-famous tourist attraction.A recent poll by Integral found that 69 per cent of Austrians said the church was lacking in credibility, with another 51 per cent wanting Austria to cut its ties to the Vatican over the Holy See’s reluctance to react to sexual abuse claims across the continent.Another survey revealed that around one million Austrians were seriously considering leaving the Church.