Austrian Scandals Lead to Mass Defections

From – Church in the World:

“Fifty thousand Catholics officially left the Church in 2004. The nationwide average of 40 per cent was even higher than in 1995 when the former Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer, was accused of sexually abusing a minor. In 2004 the St P?lten diocese had 45 per cent more Catholics leaving than in the previous year, after a scandal at the seminary involving the downloading of child pornography and claims of homosexual activity. Bishop Klaus K?ng subsequently replaced Kurt Krenn as Bishop of St P?lten.

Commenting on the main evening news on 17 January, the dean of the Catholic Theological Faculty of Vienna University, Professor Paul Zulehner, said the exodus was still primarily due to the controversial episcopal appointments that the Vatican had made in the Austrian Church after the late Cardinal Hans K?nig’s retirement in 1985. The fact that Rome delayed in responding to the St P?lten crisis had made things even worse, said Professor Zulehner. Since the ‘Groer Affair’ of the mid-1990s, ‘the immune system of Austrian Catholics has grown steadily weaker so they can no longer cope with further bouts of scandals’, he said.

In St P?lten, meanwhile, Bishop K?ng, who replaced Bishop Kurt Krenn last October, spoke at length with the former rector of the seminary, Fr Ulrich K?chl, and his assistant, Fr Wolfgang Rothe, about their future. Photographs of both priests fondling seminarians made world headlines last July. Bishop K?ng told them before Christmas they should both retire to a religious house for six months to a year to consider their vocations and their future. “

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