One of Norway’s most well-known Catholic priests has emerged as the alleged offender behind a sexual assault claimed by another Catholic priest. Pater Kjell Arild Pollestad denies the claim and contends he’s been the victim of enemies within the church. Now he’s leaving the priesthood.
Pollestad wrote a lengthy and detailed rebuttal in newspaper Aftenposten Tuesday to claims made last week by another Catholic priest, Reidar Voith in Porsgrunn. Voith had told local newspaper Varden that a then-unnamed priest had tried to rape him twice in the 1990s, when Voith was still a student.
Pollestad’s name was linked to Voith’s allegations during the weekend and Pollestad has now taken the dramatic step of confronting them in a highly public manner. Pollestad calls the alleged sexual assault oppspinn (a fabrication, or falsehood).
Pollestad writes that he was “fond” of Voith but viewed him as a sort of son, and claims Voith “never was touched in any way other than that which a father would touch his son, or an uncle his nephew or niece.”
Pollestad claims the allegations, and his subsequent transfer to a church order in Paris, were the result of a campaign against him by uvenner (enemies) within the Catholic Church in Norway. He indicates in his published rebuttal that various forces within the church didn’t like his views on homosexuality, of which he’d written, and they were looking for an excuse to get rid of him. Voith’s and other allegations meant to be of a humorous nature gave them that excuse, Pollestad claims.
He declined a request by Aftenposten to elaborate on his published remarks. Oslo Bishop Bernt Eidsvig, who’s been dealing with a sex scandal within Norway’s Catholic Church during the past week, told Aftenposten he could “confirm that Pater Pollestad was asked to leave Norway,” and that he was aware Pollestad had enemies within the church.
Pollestad ended his published remarks by announcing that he had decided to leave the church after 30 years as a priest. “The bishop has said he has no use for me in Norway, and it was among my own that I wanted to work,” he concluded.