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Church says Norway bishop resigned in 2009 over abuse

OSLO, Norway — A Catholic bishop who resigned last year did so after admitting he molested a child about 20 years earlier, when he was a priest, church officials said Wednesday.

The announcement came after a Norwegian newspaper pressed for an explanation for why Georg Mueller, a 58-year-old German, stepped down unexpectedly as bishop in the western city of Trondheim in June. At the time, Vatican and Norwegian church officials gave only vague reasons.

It was the first case in the current wave of sexual abuse allegations — and accusations of coverups — against Catholic clergy in which a bishop stepped down after admitting having molested minors.

The revelation rocked the small Catholic community in Norway, a predominantly Lutheran country, and follows scandals in Germany, Italy, Austria, Switzerland and Denmark that are erupting after decades of abuse cases in the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland and other countries.

Mueller's successor, Bishop Bernt Eidsvig, said details were kept quiet at the request of the victim. Church officials said it happened in the early '90s — before Mueller became a bishop in 1997 — and no other allegations had come to light.

He was removed from all pastoral duties and underwent therapy after admitting the abuse. "He will never again be given a position in the church," Eidsvig told Adresseavisen, the Trondheim daily newspaper that broke the story. Adresseavisen said the victim was an altar boy. Eidsvig didn't give any details, saying only that the victim was now "well over age."

It's too late for the case, which came to the Vatican's attention in January of last year, to be tried in civil court because the statute of limitations in Norway has passed, Eidsvig said.

Mueller, who first took up a post in Trondheim in 1981, quit on June 8 and moved to Rome, according to the Web site of the German branch of his order, the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Adresseavisen reported the church paid the victim $67,000-$84,000 in reparations.

Church says Norway bishop resigned in 2009 over abuse 04/07/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 7, 2010 11:09pm]
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