Klosterneuburg has been waiting for the election of a new provost and abbot for two years. In between, a papal delegate managed the cloister and was charged with investigating allegations of sexual abuse and cover-ups. There are now doubts that the investigation really went properly on all points.
(Vienna) The Canadian news site LifeSiteNews raises serious allegations of homosexuality related to the investigations into sexual abuse in the Augustinian monastery in Klosterneuburg near Vienna. The allegations by Maike Hickson and editor-in-chief John Henry Westen concern how the monastery management dealt with the allegations of abuse, but also the Roman investigation of the same. Today 41 canons live in Klosterneuburg, which was founded in 1114. The Augustinian monastery is one of the richest monasteries in the world.
The allegations of abuse concern two former members of the house, one dismissed and the other deceased. The allegations of cover-up, however, concern the former provost of the monastery and the Roman delegate.
In 2017, reports of sexual abuse at the cloister had surfaced, sparking a major media frenzy. The monastery reacted confidently and seemed to be able to clear up all the allegations. But was that really the case? LifeSiteNews has since cast doubt on the account.
The Veix case
The allegations concerned Canon W. Veix, who in 1993 had put a 13-year-old altar boy under the influence of alcohol and sexually abused him. The abbey reacted immediately: WV was asked to leave the order. He agreed and left the monastery within six days. A canonical expulsion procedure would have taken a longer period of time. Rome was asked to dispense the vows and informed of the serious incident. "Until he left the cloister, which must be done by order from Rome, the monastery was obliged by canon law to support him and removed him from the monastery to an apartment in Vienna. This responsibility ended when he left in 1994,” the monastery announced in a 2017 a public press release.
The matter becomes controversial from this moment on. WV was ordained a priest in the Romanian diocese of Oradea (Oradea) in 1996 and then became active again in the German-speaking regions. Among other things, he received a parish in the Federal Republic of Germany, where he molested an even younger victim, which ultimately led to his laicization.
At the time of the incident in Klosterneuburg, Canon Bernhard Backovsky was master of novices. In 1995 he was elected the 66th provost and 17th Lateran abbot of the monastery. It was a post he held until 2020. From 2002 to 2017 Propst Backovsky was also Abbot General of the Austrian Congregation and from 2010 to 2016 Abbot Primate of the International Confederation of Augustinian Canons.
In 2017, the spokesman for the monastery publicly announced:
“The monastery knew nothing of his ordination by the bishop of Oradea. We were not contacted either. It should be noted that the novice master at the time and today's general abbot, provost Bernhard Backovsky, made no effort whatsoever to enable Mr. Veix to be ordained a priest in any way. If the Diocese of Oradea had asked Klosterneuburg Abbey, Mr. Veix would never have been ordained a priest. Neither the diocese of Basel nor the diocese of Würzburg made an inquiry in the monastery regarding Veix. Since the monastery knew just as little about this priestly ordination as it did about his employment in Basel and Würzburg, the monastery had no opportunity to warn the dioceses of Basel and Würzburg."
WV reported the monastery to the ecclesiastical authority in Rome, which is the Congregation of Religious. At the request of the boy's mother, the boy's mother waived a complaint before secular jurisdiction "so as not to further incriminate her child and to prevent the abuse from becoming public knowledge. However, it should definitely be ensured that Mr. Veix is removed from the monastery, which was done within 6 days with all the consequences of canon law.”
LifeSiteNews accuses Provost Backovsky of having witnesses who testified that he actually helped WV get ordained a priest in Romania. The suspicion soon arose that VW could not have succeeded in being admitted to priestly ordination so quickly without support. If so, Backovsky would have been complicit if WV, endowed with the office and reputation of a priest, was able to abuse other boys. But why should the provost have done that? An eyewitness, according to LifeSiteNews, testified that WV once boasted to him that he had "Backovsky and his brother in his pocket". And he added that Provost Backovsky was "my reinsurance".
The Rohrig case
The second case weighs more heavily. It concerns the Canon P. Floridus Röhrig, who died in 2014 and was a church historian professor at the University of Vienna and one of the most prominent members of the abbey. As such, he has received numerous honors. "As a person and as a priest, however, he seems to have lived a very different life," according to LifeSiteNews. The Canadian news site was able to speak to one of his victims, PR [a pseudonym as the victim wishes to remain anonymous], who, aged just 13, had been “repeatedly subjected to the most severe sexual abuse. He and his older brother both stated that Dr. Floridus," according to LifeSiteNews.
The former novice of the monastery and today's pastor in Hamburg, Michael Imlau, became the key witness against P. Floridus Röhrig and Provost Backovsky. He himself became a victim of the progressive members of the cloister, as he says himself, and in order not to endanger their influence in the house, he was removed from the monastery.
Michael Imlau revealed in 2019 that Röhrig had a reputation for being "Lower Austria's biggest child molester" in the cloister. He himself, he told LifeSiteNews, had witnessed evening tales from Röhrig as he was drunk recounting "his strange adventures in London" - and Röhrig was often drunk in the evenings. An older canon, who wanted to protect others from Röhrig, yelled at him one day in front of other canons that he should stay away from a young canon: "You bastard, keep your disgusting hands off X!" The young man did not know what the invitation was Röhrigs to accompany him would entail. According to Imlau. None of the canons present would have defended Röhrig. According to Imlau, they were silent.
As a spiritual assistant, Röhrig was responsible for scouts in the region and, according to Imlau, regularly took the boys with him on “cultural trips”. Both PR and his brother testified that Rohrig took them to nudist beaches where he took pictures of the boys naked. According to Imlau, the drunk Röhrig once showed two of his confreres some of these photos.
According to Imlau, Provost Backovsky remained inactive in the Röhrig case, which is why he was able to continue his activities and die as a member of the community.
The Roman Inquiry
The incidents that became known prompted the Roman Congregation of Religious to send a papal delegate to Klosterneuburg, who took over the management of the cloister after the resignation of Provost Backovsky for health reasons and had the task of investigating the cases of sexual abuse and possible misconduct by Provost Backovsky in dealing with the allegations. There was an accusation of cover-up. The investigation was recently completed. Was it really? LifeSiteNews also expresses doubts about this.
Whether Provost Backovsky resigned voluntarily in May 2020 remains to be seen. He had headed the monastery for 25 years. In the summer of that year, however, the house was visited by the Vatican, which resulted in the appointment of a papal delegate. From this it becomes clear that there were things that needed to be dealt with.
In November 2020, the Vatican appointed Bishop Josef Clemens, former secretary to Pope Benedict XVI, as papal delegate for the monastery. He would be in charge of the investigation. To do this, he in turn commissioned an external expert.
What did the investigations of the papal delegate reveal?
He established sexual misconduct by members and former members of the monastery and failures in preventing or subsequently processing cases of abuse on the part of the monastery management at the time. Therefore, the emeritus provost Bernhard Backovsky was given a canonical monitio ( admonition). The reasons for this admonition remained vaguely formulated. The identified “deficiencies” were not named. Nor was it said whether Rohrig was guilty. Rather, the old abbot was given space to apologize for his behavior.
Msgr. Clemens also stated that "the investigation, as recommended by the Holy See, is closed" and it is now important "to look to the future and to make a new beginning". Former provost Backovsky was ordered to stay away from the monastery "for a reasonable time" as a punishment. However, according to LifeSiteNews, he may already have returned to the cloister.
In November 2021 there was an incident that called into question the work of the papal delegate. On the feast of St. Leopold, the founder of the monastery, he quoted in the sermon from a scientific work about the Austrian Margrave Leopold III. the saint of the late Canon Röhrig, whose misconduct he had to investigate. He not only quoted Röhrig in the footnotes but also mentioned him by name in his sermon.
The waves grew rough and still haven't calmed down. Victims and their defenders saw themselves betrayed. You spoke of a "provocation" that opened up new wounds. Ironically, the "child molester no. 1 of the monastery", according to Johannes Heibel from a victim support association, was honored. How was Bishop Clemens able to put a perpetrator in the foreground?
Life SiteNews interviewed the bishop and now former papal delegate. Until the election of the 67th Provost and 18th Lateran Abbot, provost Maximilian Fürnsinn of Herzogenburg Abbey will be the administrator of Klosterneuburg Abbey.
Questioned by LifeSiteNews, Bishop Clemens admitted a lack of sensitivity, which he would have been better off avoiding. However, he defended his actions by quoting from a scientific work that was to be seen independently of the author's person. Proper citation and the corresponding reference are academic standards. Röhrig was only mentioned directly because Clemens used his translation of a Latin quotation. In no way can a justification for Röhrig's misconduct be read from this.
LifeSiteNews also asked Bischofs Clemens if Röhrig was found guilty, but received no real answer. The bishop referred to the procedure used.
Wasn't transparency part of the mission of the papal delegate? This impression was reinforced for LifeSiteNews when it learned on May 15 from Rev. Michael Imlau that he and another priest had met with Msgr. Clemens to lament the non-hearing of two key witnesses. However, the papal delegate declared the case closed. [Haughtily and legalistically]
The bishop made it clear to Pastor Imlau that at the time there was silence on the Röhrig case "to avert damage to the Church". That is legitimate, but today it is seen as an own goal since the Church urgently needs to deal with the sexual scandals, which according to the Polish professor and priest Dariusz Oko are above all the problem of a "homo-heresy".
Bishop Clemens indicated twice that now the suspicion of Pastor Imlau and Johannes Heibel is directed against himself that he had participated in a cover-up. "By not fully informing the public, he fits seamlessly into the ranks of the cover-up," Heibel is quoted as saying to LifeSiteNews.
Papal delegate under criticism
LifeSiteNews goes further, questioning Bishop Clement's appointment as papal delegate a speaking of a "controversial personal history." Clemens, a priest of the Bishop of Paderborn, received his doctorate in moral theology in 1983. He then served for twenty years as personal secretary to Joseph Ratzinger, then Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In 2003, Pope John Paul II appointed him, apparently at the suggestion of Cardinal Ratzinger, undersecretary of the Congregation of Religious, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity and titular bishop of Segermes. Cardinal Ratzinger consecrated him as a bishop on January 6, 2004 in St. Peter's Basilica.
As Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the former Apostolic Nuncio to the US, revealed to LifeSite, the usual Vatican scrutiny before appointment as a bishop raised strong suspicions that Clement was an active homosexual. Because of his duties at the time, he himself was involved in this review.
According to Archbishop Viganò, it was the then Apostolic Nuncio in the Federal Republic of Germany, Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, who informed him of these "strong suspicions" in an official capacity. According to Viganò, Cardinal Ratzinger was then warned against Clemens' homosexuality. He nevertheless supported the bishop's appointment of his former secretary.
Viganò's assessment of a possible appointment of Clemens as a bishop was therefore "negative". Clemens was nevertheless appointed and ordained bishop. In the past, when he became Pope Francis' prosecutor in connection with former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick in the USA, the former Apostolic Nuncio had spoken of homosexual cliques in the church that would cover each other and ensure promotions.
LifeSiteNews also notes that, according to a "reliable source," Cardinal Ratzinger approached then-Archbishop Joachim Cardinal Meisner of Cologne to see if he would accept Clemens into his diocese. The exact context of this statement is unclear, since neither the time is mentioned nor is it said whether this request was intended instead of an appointment as a bishop or whether Clemens was to be chosen auxiliary bishop of Cologne.
According to LifeSiteNews, however, the answer from Cologne given by Cardinal Meisner is certain: "I can confirm," according to the anonymous source, "that Cardinal Meisner told us that he refused Ratzinger's request to accept Clemens in Cologne, namely with the words: 'No, because of homosexuality'. He [Meisner] also wanted to offer Clemens therapy, which he refused.”
LifeSiteNews also cites another source, this time Roman: "The fact that Josef Clemens was and is an active homosexual is well known among us here in Rome."
According to Archbishop Viganò, "there was quite a dispute between Gänswein and Clemens" when Cardinal Ratzinger elected today's Archbishop Georg Gänswein as his new secretary.
LifeSiteNews confronted Bishop Clemens with the statements, which he categorically rejected. Claims that he is a practicing homosexual are "an untruth". He has no knowledge of Archbishop Viganò's claims and his appeal to Cardinal Lajolo:
"With these clear and unequivocal answers, I consider the matter closed."
Inquiries from LifeSiteNews to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the Vatican Press Office and Cardinal Lajolo, now 87, went unanswered.
LifeSiteNews isn't very happy with the whole thing. They insinuate that the Vatican may have deliberately appointed a papal delegate who is himself "strongly suspected" of being an active homosexual, and concludes the report by saying:
“Is this how the Vatican is dealing with the plight of victims of sexual abuse in Klosterneuburg following assurances from Pope Francis that sexual abuse and the cover-up of sexual abuse are now being handled differently?”
Text: Giuseppe Nardi
Image : Wikicommons
Trans: Tancred email@example.com