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German Priest Charged With Sexually Abusing Teen-Age Boy

Jul 18, 2002 | AP Prosecutors said Thursday they have charged a Roman Catholic priest with sexually abusing a teen-age boy, the latest case to come to light in Germany since a wave of sex-abuse scandals engulfed the church.

The 38-year-old priest from the parish of Holzwickede allegedly abused the boy, then 13, in 1998 when he was a member of a church youth group, said Heiko Oltmanns, a prosecutor in the nearby city of Dortmund.

He said the priest was charged on March 14, confirming a report in the Westfalen-Blatt newspaper Thursday.

The paper said the priest was one of two in the diocese of Paderborn facing allegations of sexual abuse, and that both men were suspended and moved away from their parishes.

Diocese spokesman Thomas Schaefers would say only that two priests were under investigation, and that it was normal to suspend priests in such circumstances. Prosecutors denied knowledge of the second case.

The priest from Holzwickede was originally charged in 2000 with sexually abusing several minors, including the 13-year-old, whose parents filed a complaint, Oltmanns said.

A court refused to hear the case, citing insufficient evidence. But prosecutors recently obtained new evidence in the case of the 13-year-old, and a court will likely decide next month whether to open proceedings, Oltmanns said.

Sexual abuse of minors carries a prison sentence of up to five years.

On Monday, prosecutors in Darmstadt opened a criminal investigation against a Roman Catholic priest accused of sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy.

The Mainz diocese announced the priest's suspension Sunday and pledged a full inquiry of its own after a German magazine reported on the allegations against him. Prosecutors said the priest denies the allegations.

While German priests have in the past decade been convicted of abusing children, no major sex-abuse scandal has hit the German church even as such cases reached to the highest levels of the clergy in countries such as the United States, Poland and France.

In April, Germany's Roman Catholic bishops agreed to study the need for new guidelines on handling clergy's sex abuse of minors, but insisted that several cases discovered in Germany do not indicate a widespread problem.

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