Austrian Cardinal Denies Role in Abuse Scandal

News Brief: Dec., 2010/Jan., 2011

Allegations of child abuse amongst Austria’s Roman Catholic clergy are again in the spotlight with revelations that Cardinal Christoph Schönborn knew of the abuse and did nothing to stop it, as claimed by a former member of one of the diocesan ombudsman offices set up for victims of violence and sexual abuse in the church. The Cardinal has denied all allegations.

“The Cardinal has never remained silent on the subject of abuse,” spokesman Erich Leitenberger told the Austrian daily Der Standard on Nov. 25.

The day before, a new study about the victims and perpetrators involved in the abuse scandal – the most detailed so far – conducted by the independent “Hotline for Victims of Ecclesiastical Violence” (Hotline für Betroffene kirchlicher Gewalt) was made public and widely reported. Evaluating statements made by 325 of those affected found that the vast majority (about 80 percent) of the victims have been boys between the ages of seven and fourteen. Most of the perpetrators were ordained priests.

The church is thus “the only institution in Austria where child molesters have a job guarantee,” said psychologist Philipp Schwärzler, author of the report.

The Victims Hotline was set up as an alternative to the ombudsman offices of the church, operates weekdays from 9 a.m. to 12 a.m. under the phone number 0699/10369369. An Independent Victim Protection Advocacy, under the leadership of former Styrian governor Waltraud Klasnic, has also been created to counter criticisms that the diocesan ombudsmen were not impartial enough.

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