Germany's Catholic Church has been hit by another case of clerical sexual abuse, with a priest admitting to abusing three boys between the ages of 9 and 15 some 280 times since 2004.
A Catholic priest admitted to a German court on Thursday that he sexually abused three boys over several years, amounting to a total of 280 cases.
The priest, identified as 46-year-old Andreas L. from the city of Salzgitter in Lower Saxony, confessed to charges of sexually abusing the boys, who ranged from nine to 15 years old. The abuse began in 2004, he said.
Instances of abuse occurred at a parsonage, on ski vacations, at the parents' home, on a trip to Disneyland in Paris and at a church shortly before Mass.
The priest told the regional court in Braunschweig that while working as a chaplain in the same city in 2004, he began a close relationship with a widowed woman. When he was moved to Salzgitter, the woman's nine-year-old son often spent weekends with the man, who would take him on short trips away. The abuse occurred on several occasions, often three times per weekend.
The suspect said it was not his intention to get close to the boy sexually, and that it never occurred to him that he was harming them.
When the mother began to suspect her son's interactions with the priest were inappropriately close, she approached the diocese of Hildesheim, the priest's employer, which forbid further contact with the boy.
Victims two and three
The two other boys named as victims by the priest were brothers, and the abuse began under similar circumstances. When contact with them was also forbidden, the priest approached his first victim, then 17, who in turn told his mother about the abuse.
The mother then went to the authorities, and the suspect was arrested last summer. The court set the maximum sentence for the priest at six and a half years.
A long series of sexual abuse scandals involving Catholic priests in Germany is believed to have contributed to Germans leaving the Church in record numbers. Some 180,000 Germans renounced their Catholicism in 2010, up 40 percent from the previous year.
Pope Benedict XVI met with victims of clerical sexual abuse during a visit to his native Germany in September, expressing his deep regret. The German Catholic Church faces some 600 claims for compensation because of abuse, and Berlin has set up a fund of 100 million euros ($128 million) to pay for the victims' therapy.
Author: Andrew Bowen (Reuters, dpa)
Editor: Andreas Illmer