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Germany

Priest Guilty of Abusing Altar Boy Receives Three-Year Sentence

A court in southern Germany on Thursday, March 13, heard the confession of a pedophile priest accused of sexually abusing an alter box more than 20 times.

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The picturesque parish of Riekofen for years had a priest with a history of sex abuse

The 40-year-old priest of the parish of Riekofen in Bavaria, southern Germany, was found guilty of sexually abusing an altar boy 22 times since 2003. The victim was 11 years old at the time the assaults began.

He was sentenced to three years in prision and confinement in a psychiatric clinic.

The trial opened with the priest confessing to the crime, saying he wanted to spare his victim from giving a statement.

"I once again would like to stress that I want to apologize in particular to my joint plaintiff," the cleric said. Before the trial began, the accused handed the victim's family 5,000 euros ($7,750) in cash and said he would offer a further 3,000 euros.

The main police investigator in the case said the altar boy had given details of the abuse after initial hesitation.

"You could see that he was simply very ashamed of what had happened," she said. The lawyer for the victim's family said the boy hardly left home and had problems sleeping.

Not the first time

It's not the first time the clergyman is in the dock for sexual abuse. He was sentenced to parole in 2000 for molesting a child.

The priest, however, violated his parole conditions, according to the charges against him. In 2001, he is said to have taken up work again as a pastor in the community and to have supervised youth groups although he was forbidden form working with young people.

The charges say the priest invited children and youths to his cellar where they were allowed to smoke a water pipe and drink alcohol. He stands accused of making improper sexual advances to young altar boys during several excursions and at his home.

Diocese failed to stop tainted priest

Regensburg's bishop Gerhard Ludwig Mueller

Regensburg's bishop Gerhard Ludwig Mueller is under fire

The case has stirred anger in the region with many outraged at the perceived failure of the authorities to prevent the priest from taking up work in the parish and seeking contact with altar boys. Around a dozen people demonstrated outside the courthouse on Thursday, protesting against Regensburg's Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Mueller for reinstating the priest despite his prior conviction.

The court on Thursday found that the diocese of Regensburg had failed to adequately inform the public about the sex abuse scandal surrounding the cleric.

The diocese had initially said the priest was back at work only in 2004 after he completed therapy. But files seized by the police showed that the diocese leadership was well-informed about the clergyman's work in the parish. After the death of his predecessor, the accused was the responsible priest in the parish during his parole.

Regensburg's state attorney said there was a strong risk of the priest repeating the sexual offences if he did not undergo therapy.

Recurring problem

Long a taboo topic, cases of pedophilia among priests have come to light in a variety of countries in recent years. Catholic dioceses in the United States have paid out more than a billion dollars in compensation to abuse victims in the past four years. The Vatican has not become involved in the Riekofen affair.

The diocese of Regensburg has been shaken by a number of sex abuse cases in past years.

In 2002, the Conference of Bishops in Germany issued guidelines on pedophilia. The needs of the victims were to have priority over the needs of the accused priest. Those rules say former pedophiles must not be employed in posts where they may have contact with children.

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