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Monk To Probe Cardinal Sex Charges

March 2, 1998

VIENNA, Austria (AP) _ Three months ahead of a papal visit, Austria’s Catholic Church is coming under pressure to clear up a scandal involving a bishop accused of molesting young boys.

A Benedictine monk arrived Monday from the United States to interview the 65 monks of the Gottweig abbey northwest of Vienna for the investigation involving Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer.

Groer was removed from his post as Vienna’s archbishop in 1995 following accusations that he sexually abused boys under his tutelage. He sought seclusion in a monastery and the affair was swept under the rug, only to resurface again last December when another monk came forward with accusations of abuse.

This time, the Groer affair threatened to split Austria’s Catholic Church, snowballing into a dispute between church leaders who wanted to keep it under wraps and nearly 1 million practicing Catholics demanding answers.

Last Friday, Austria’s most senior bishops, including Groer’s successor as Vienna archbishop, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, took the unusual step of issuing a statement saying they believed the allegations against Groer to be essentially true.

``We have to bear his (Groer’s) silence, but we ourselves cannot remain silent, if we want to do justice to our responsibility to the church,″ the statement said.

Visiting Rev. Marcel Rooney, who is accompanied by Heereman von Zuydtwyck, a Franciscan monk from Germany, will submit a report to the Vatican following a week-long investigation that began Monday. The pontiff will then decide whether measures will be taken against Groer.

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