The Norwegian Catholics’ former bishop in Trondheim left his post last summer after admitting that he’d sexually molested an altar boy around 20 years earlier, reports newspaper Adresseavisen. Church officials chose not to publicly acknowledge the molestation, claiming the bishop was “relieved of his duties” because of “cooperation problems” within his congregation. The disgraced bishop reportedly moved to Germany, but his current whereabouts remain unclear.
The report in Adresseavisen topped all national newscasts on Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Wednesday morning and comes just after claims made during the Easter holidays by the bishop in Oslo, Bernt Eidsvig, that the Catholic Church shouldn’t excuse itself from sexual assaults by priests or remain silent about them. Eidsvig had said on NRK during the weekend that Pope Benedict XVI “missed an opportunity” by not addressing the wave of reports of sexual abuse within the church during the Pope’s traditional Easter appearance at the Vatican.
Now questions are being raised as to whether Eidsvig himself, and Catholic officials in Norway, missed an opportunity for openness themselves. Eidsvig told Addresseavisen, however, that the victim of the molestation in Trondheim himself asked that it not be publicized.
The victim is now in his 30s, “well over the legal age” to make such decisions, said Eidsvig, and had also kept quiet for decades himself about the assault by former Trondheim Bishop Georg Müller. The assault occurred when Müller was still a priest in Trondheim.
The victim finally told another priest about it more than a year ago. Eidsvig said an investigation was begun and the accusation was forwarded to the Vatican in February of last year. Müller, when confronted with the charge against him, immediately confessed and ultimately gave up his duties in Trondheim. Eidsvig said the former bishop has since “been under psychological treatment, or therapy, and spiritual guidance.”
The church granted Müller’s victim the equivalent of a year’s salary, between NOK 400,000 and NOK 500,000 (about USD 75,000), in compensation.
The case was never reported to police, Eidsvig said, because it was so old and the statute of limitations for such crimes had run out.
‘No other victims’
Eidsvig told Adresseavisen that the archbishop who is the Vatican’s ambassador to the Nordic countries questioned Müller repeatedly as to whether he assaulted anyone else in addition to the victim. Müller claimed he had not, according to Eidsvig, who added that no one else has reported any sexual assaults to either the police or church authorities as far as he knew.
Asked whether Eidsvig is secure that Müller now is telling the truth, Eidsvig said: “I can’t be 100 percent sure about that.” By midday on Wednesday, new reports were emerging that church officials are now aware of four cases of sexual abuse, but some of them go back to the 1950s.
Asked how the case affects confidence in the church, Eidsvig conceded that it can’t do any good “other than that the church acted quickly and has done its best for the victim.” He also said Müller “will never again have a position within the church.”
Müller himself left Trondheim and reportedly has since “kept a low profile” in Germany. His exact whereabouts remained unclear and Adresseavisen’s attempts to reach him for comment were unsuccessful. One church official in the German province that’s home to Müller’s order, Picpuspatrene, said Müller remains a bishop but hasn’t had any official roles since leaving Trondheim.