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Seminary shut after porn scandal

By CNN's Chris Burns

Bishop Krenn has so far refused to resign over the scandal.
Roman Catholic Church

BERLIN, Germany (CNN) -- A Vatican investigator has ordered the immediate shutdown of an Austrian seminary embroiled in a child pornography scandal, saying he found evidence of homosexual relations there.

"It was painful for me to discover, that active homophile relations had developed," Bishop Klaus Kueng said in a statement Thursday after his investigation of the St. Poelten seminary, where about 40,000 photos and numerous videos had been discovered.

"There was unfortunately a grave, undesirable trend: this was at the latest made clear through pornographic pictures that some seminary students actively downloaded from the Internet," he said in the statement released on the St. Poelten diocese Web site.

Photos also surfaced of seminary students kissing and fondling each other. Some photos were published in Austrian newspapers, and the controversy prompted Pope John Paul II to send Kueng as an "apostolic visitor" to investigate.

The bishop called for a "new beginning" for the seminary. As for the existing seminary students, they will have access to medical or spiritual help, have the opportunity to apply to other seminaries, or seek another profession, he said.

One seminary student is to go before the St. Poelten State Court on Friday to face charges of downloading child pornography, said Bernhard Herzberger, spokesman for the St. Poelten diocese.

Of the 36 seminarians, two have quit since the scandal broke in recent weeks, Herzberger told CNN in a telephone interview from St. Poelten, 80 kilometers (50 miles) west of Vienna.

Bishop Krenn, however, has refused to resign and has turned down interviews, Herzberger said.

The scandal is only the latest to hit the Catholic Church, which has been sued for millions of dollars in Europe and America in recent years over priests sexually abusing minors.

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