At least two priests accused of child sex abuse in the United States were able to continue working and offending in Scandinavia, an investigation has found.
Driving the news
Swedish public broadcaster SVT reported Monday on the cases of the two priests, who were able to work in Sweden and Norway even after complaints were raised against them in the US.
One of the accused priests worked in three different parishes in Gary, Indiana, in the 1980s.
It was there that he was “credibly accused” of the abuse of six children, according to recently-released Gary Church records.
But since the Church’s internal investigation was never passed along to police, the priest was able to move to Sweden in 2000.
Spokeswoman for the Swedish Catholic Church Kristina Hellner confirmed the Gary priest worked in Sweden, in both Gothenburg and Falun.
In Falun, the priest was accused of the sexual assault of a woman.
Since the woman was reluctant to testify, the Swedish Church never reported the complaint to the police.
Stockholm Bishop and now cardinal Anders Arborelius did, however, request the priest be moved, and reported the alleged assault to the priest’s superior.
Hellner told SVT that the accused “is a charismatic priest who thinks he has healing powers”.
“It was during such a healing session that he molested [the woman]”, the Church spokeswoman revealed.
Contacted by STV, the 78-year-old priest denied the allegations.
Where it stands
The second US-accused priest active in Scandinavia and uncovered by SVT is a south-east Asian man who was ordained priest in Oslo, where he ministered for several years.
The man later worked in San Bernardino, California, where he was accused by police of sex with a minor.
The family refused permission for the child to testify, however, and authorities were forced to close the case.
That meant the priest was free to return to Malmö in 2003, where he worked as a priest for a year.
It was during that time that the priest was accused of assaulting a male member of his congregation.
But again, the Norwegian Church didn’t report the accusations to the police.
Speaking to Norwegian public broadcaster NRK, Bishop of Oslo since 2005, Bernt Eidsvig, acknowledged that the US-accused priest active in Norway in the 2000s was accused of abuse in the country in the 1980s.
Eidsvig said it was for that reason that he turned down repeated requests from the priest for a letter of recommendation when he returned to Malmö.
The bishop added that the accused man has changed his name and no longer works as a priest.
“Today we have a completely different [anti-abuse protocols] than we had then [in the 80s]”, Eidsvig said.
“Today, [the accused priest] would be suspended from his position and a formal process would be opened”, the bishop explained, admitting that the Church’s handling of abuse cases in the past was “irresponsible”.
Why it matters
Hellner blamed the freedom of movement of pedophile priests on the Church’s system of “letters of good standing”, which priests must present to be appointed to a parish.
This system of letters of recommendation doesn’t always work, the spokeswoman lamented, given that the Swedish Church “didn’t know anything” about the accusations against the Gary priest.
“That’s what we want to control now”, Hellner added.
The spokeswoman lamented also the fact that many survivers of clergy abuse don’t wish to testify to the authorities.
“It’s difficult to report when victims tell us [of the abuse] and then don’t want to go further”, Hellner said.