Papal Emissary Closes Austrian Seminary

A papal emissary shut down an Austrian seminary amid a child pornography investigation on Thursday, saying that past procedures for selecting students for the program were inadequate.

Bishop Klaus Kueng told reporters in remarks broadcast on state-run ORF television that his investigation showed that church leaders "paid too little attention to selection procedures." He also said he regrets that the seminary had veered away from its mission of training young men to serve the Roman Catholic Church (search).

"A new beginning is necessary," he said. "I am closing the seminary right away."

The Vatican inspector had promised a "brisk investigation" into the discovery of child pornography at the seminary and pledged to do whatever it took to restore credibility to Austria's scandalized church.

Authorities said they found about 40,000 photos and numerous videos, including child pornography, on computers at the seminary in the diocese of St. Poelten (search), about 50 miles west of Vienna.

Other photographs of seminary students kissing and fondling each other and their older religious instructors at the seminary also have been found. Some of the photos were published in Austrian media and triggered a public uproar that prompted Pope John Paul II (search) to dispatch Kueng as an "apostolic visitor" to contain the scandal.

Prosecutors investigating the child pornography aspect of the case have charged a 27-year-old former seminary student from Poland with possessing and distributing illicit material, a federal offense punishable by up to two years in prison.

Local Bishop Kurt Krenn (search), whose close ties to the Vatican led to a papal visit to his modest diocese in 1998, has refused to resign despite mounting pressure.

Kueng, of Feldkirch, Austria, is a member of Opus Dei (search), the conservative Catholic organization. His diocese is in the southwestern Austrian province of Voralberg (search).

The Vatican appoints an apostolic visitor when it receives allegations of "grave irregularities" at an institution of a diocese.