The diocese of Hildesheim. Bishop Heinz-Günter Bongartz.

German priest arrested on sex abuse charges - Comment on 2011 July 21

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2011 July 21
Two of the boys have confirmed the abuse, with one of them last abused in June. Read more:

German police have arrested a 46-year-old priest who has admitted sexually abusing three boys in the past four years.

The priest is believed to be a repeat offender and was arrested on Saturday before leaving on a summer trip with minors to Taize in France.

After questioning, the man admitted abusing two boys as well as a teenager in the central German town of Salzgitter.

Two of the boys have confirmed the abuse, with one of them last abused in June.

“The boys are suspected of being sexually abused as far back as 2007,” said an investigating officer in the nearby city of Braunschweig.

The case came to light when a mother of one of the boys pressed charges. Her son said that he was abused by the priest as a 10-year-old first communicant. In the other two cases the abuse began in 2007 and continued until last month.

The priest is on remand, with state prosecutors feeling an acute danger of further offences.

They have reopened the case of a 25-year-old who apparently shot himself at the priest’s apartment in 2007, a death ruled a suicide at the time.

The priest has been suspended by church authorities in the diocese of Hildesheim pending a full investigation. Bishop Heinz-Günter Bongartz said yesterday that complaints had been filed against the priest in 2006. They were not of a sexual nature, he said, but when further complaints were made last year the diocese contacted the state prosecutor.

No case was brought due to lack of evidence until renewed complaints in June.

”We made clear to him at the time where the limits lay,” said Bishop Bongartz. “If these new allegations are confirmed, it would be a terrible betrayal of trust. My thoughts are with the victims at this time.”

Police have asked for any other victims of the priest to come forward. They have set up a special investigatory commission under the name “Peccantia”, Latin for “sin”.

This latest abuse case comes 18 months after allegations of abuse at a Jesuit school in Berlin prompted widespread clerical abuse revelations. After a swift investigation, the German Bishops‘ Conference revised child protection guidelines and tightened up reporting of abuse to the authorities.

Last week bishops said they would open files going back to 1945 to two independent investigators.

Some 180,000 Germans officially left the Catholic church last year in light of the abuse allegations. Pope Benedict is due to visit his native Germany in September.

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