“To the best of my knowledge and conscience”

The Regensburg diocese and Bishop Muller defend themselves against accusations by the Regensburg Regional Court that they acted irresponsibly. They suspect "an unprecedented, nationwide defamation campaign". The former pastor of Riekofen was sentenced on Thursday to three years in prison with subsequent preventive detention for sexual abuse of a boy. The 40-year-old with a relevant criminal record had confessed before the Regional Court of Regensburg to have assaulted the altar boy, who was ten years old at the beginning, in 22 cases starting at the end of 2003.

The court's accusation is clear: Although the Regensburg diocese had known about the man's still-ongoing suspended sentence for abusing two boys, the man had already been reinstated in parish pastoral care, presiding judge Karl Iglhaut said Thursday in the trial of the pedophile. Thus the clergyman had not only violated the conditions of probation. The diocese of Regensburg had also put the man in a "temptation situation," Iglhaut criticized. He compared this to a bank hiring someone who "has a criminal record for embezzlement or misappropriation". While the church had appointed a dean, he should "keep an eye" on the pastor. But this had not been done sufficiently. After these reproaches the diocese rejected on Friday again each joint responsibility from itself. Vicar General Michael Fuchs told Bavarian radio that critics were using the case to attack Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Muller "in an unprecedented, nationwide defamation campaign". He defended the actions of the diocese, which had appointed the priest with a criminal record in Riekofen, contrary to the rules of the bishops' conference. The guidelines are a "free agreement of the bishops," so the ordinariate was free to act on them or not.Bishop Muller told the station that judges should have warned the diocese about the pedophile with a criminal record when they gave him a suspended sentence in 2003. According to Muller, the court stated at the time that there were no restrictions on the condemned man for general pastoral use. The diocese had acted "to the best of its knowledge and belief".The former pastor of Riekofen had confessed on Thursday to multiple abuse of an altar boy. The 40-year-old defendant had a statement read out by his lawyer in which he fully admits the acts of which he is accused. "It is with the greatest regret that I think back on what happened," the statement said. The confession is meant to spare the victim from having to testify in court.The priest, who had already received a suspended sentence in 2000 for a similar offense, has been certified by a psychiatric report as having a severely diminished capacity to commit a crime. At the same time it certifies a substantial danger of repetition, should the clergyman not be treated therapeutically.On the sidelines of the trial, about a dozen people had protested with a vigil against Regensburg Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Muller. In front of the building of the Regensburg Regional Court they held up posters and banners with inscriptions such as: "An autocratic bishop has totally failed morally" and "Even those who look the other way are guilty".The protest came from the associations "Wir sind Kirche" and "Aktionskreis AKR Regensburg" as well as private individuals. They criticized that the diocese had known about the pedophile tendencies of the priest, who had already been convicted of sexual abuse in 2000, and had nevertheless appointed him in Riekofen.

No damage claim Earlier this week, the Regensburg diocese had rejected claims for damages over a previous case of child abuse. There is no basis for the new claims of the family of a boy from Viechtach who was abused in 1999, said the lawyer of the diocese, Thomas Pfister, on Monday in Regensburg. In a letter to the ordinariate, the family asked for a "now necessary anthroposophical music therapy" from the clergyman and the diocese 21.500 euros demanded. In 2000, the priest had already been sentenced to a suspended sentence for the abuse of the then 12-year-old in Viechtach in 1999. The boy, who is now studying music, had already undergone several months of therapy from July 1999 to July 2000, Pfister explained further. "At the time, the complete costs were borne by the clergyman responsible for the crime and convicted of it."In mid-July 2000, the therapy was finally discontinued.According to the news magazine "Focus", the family now refers to a contract between victim and perpetrator, according to which the priest guaranteed to pay for "damages yet to be incurred" in addition to compensation for pain and suffering. The ordinariate also offered in the agreement to cover the cost of psychological treatment, regardless of how long ago the crime occurred, the report said. Diocesan spokesman Jakob Schotz explained on request that such a clause with an obligation of the diocese does not exist in the written agreement.Already at the end of 2007, according to the diocese, the mother had demanded a monthly compensation of 1.000 euros, "which would make it possible to lead a carefree life again". As a result, the family had been pointed to the church's counseling services and pastoral care offers. "However, we had to reject the monetary claim as unfounded," Pfister explained. This is now just as true for the new requirement.

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Christina Cherry
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