Catholic leaders in Austria have reacted quickly to the emergence of a new sex scandal, discovered at a local seminary. The Austrian Bishops Conference issued a statement yesterday, pledging a full and swift investigation.
"Anything that has to do with the practice of homosexuality or pornography has no place at a seminary for priests," it said.
A private emergency meeting among Church leaders was called yesterday after about 40,000 photos and videos were discovered on computers at the seminary in St. Poelten, allegedly depicting young priests and seminarians having sex, even with their instructors, reported the news magazine Profil. The downloads also included child pornography. St. Poelten is located about 80 kilometers west of Vienna.
Diocesan officials declined to make a public comment.
Church officials first discovered the material a year ago, Profil said.
Bishop Kurt Krenn of St. Poelten told Austrian television he had seen photos of seminary leaders in sexual situations with students, but dismissed them as “silly pranks" that "had nothing to do with homosexuality."
The 68-year-old bishop issued a statement calling the accusations groundless. He conceded, however, that he "may have made some wrong personnel decisions" at the seminary.
Austrian state television reported that the seminary's director, the Fr. Ulrich Kuechl, and his deputy, Wolfgang Rothe, resigned.
Vatican spokesman Ciro Benedettini told the Austria Press Agency that the Holy See had no comment.