The former Catholic bishop in Trondheim, who left Norway last year after admitting to sexually molesting an altar boy in the 1980s, has been conducting mass again in his native Germany. The head of the Catholic Church in Norway plans to protest.
Norwegian media has been full of stories about the latest sex scandal within the Catholic church, after Trondheim newspaper Adresseavisen broke the story on Wednesday that the scandal now has spread to Norway.
Newspapers VG and Dagbladet, for example, devoted more than a dozen pages to the story of how former Trondheim Bishop Georg Müller molested an altar boy and then continued to conduct his duties for around 20 years, until his victim finally informed another priest. Müller then confessed and was relieved of his duties, but church officials kept quiet about the molestation and Müller moved back to Germany.
Now a long list of religious officials in Norway contend that Müller “got off easy” and was allowed to leave the country and resume his work as a priest. Newspapers Aftenposten and Adresseavisen report that Müller has held around 10 Catholic church services at a chapel outside Osnabrück in northwest Germany since December.
The chapel is attached to the Catholic Franziskus Hospital and services were attended by nuns, hospital patients and local residents.
Norway’s top Catholic church official, Oslo Bishop Bernt Eidsvig, had said on Wednesday that Müller would never be allowed to work as a priest again. Eidsvig said he was “surprised” when told that Müller had conducted mass.
“I would say that is improper and impermissible,” Eidsvig said, adding that he would pursue the matter with church officials in Germany.
‘Don’t know where he is’
Müller’s current whereabouts remain unclear. Roland Knillmann, who handled press inquiries for the Franziskus Hospital near Osnabrück, said Müller was traveling “and we don’t know where he is.”
Knillmann said that other church officials were always present when Müller held services in the chapel, and that they would “speak with Müller when he returns.”
Aftenposten reported that Müller was admitted to a clinic near Osnabrück that treats patients for psychic and psychosomatic ailments including sexual deviancy. Eidsvig had said earlier that Müller also had been offered “spiritual guidance” as part of his treatment.
Müller, age 58, was ordained as a priest in 1978. He arrived in Trondheim in 1981 and was made a bishop in 1997, many years after he repeatedly assaulted the young altar boy. He had long been unpopular with many other church officials in Trondheim before the molestation charges became known, and some boycotted the ceremonies in 1997. Müller had been accused of bullying and being difficult to cooperate with, but he received no censure until being confronted with the molestation.
The bishop’s molestation, and reports of five others within the church in Norway, have hurt the church’s reputation. There are nearly 60,000 Catholics registered in Norway, but recent immigration from Poland and other Catholic countries has led some officials to suggest that as many as 200,000 practicing Catholics may be living in the Oslo area alone.