STA, 11 December 2019 - A priest from the Murska Sobota diocese has been found guilty of sexual violence by the Vatican's top doctrinaire body and ordered to undergo therapy, in the latest chapter of a case that has caused a huge rift in a rural parish in eastern Slovenia, several media have reported.
Andrej Zrim, a priest at the Murska Sobota parish, has been "found guilty in an out-of-court criminal procedure of sexual violence against minors and adults in accordance with the instructions of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith", reads a short notice carried in the diocese bulletin in Murska Sobota last Sunday.
"He has been ordered to take certain measures, including apologising to the victims and the parish community. He is prohibited from returning to parish service without the bishop's explicit approval, and banned from giving mass in public until the appropriate therapy is successfully concluded."
Zrim had been deposed as Ljutomer parish priest in April 2018 under instructions from a task force for resolving sexual abuse cases at the Slovenian Bishops' Conference.
But the decision, executed by Murska Sobota Bishop Peter Štumf, proved highly controversial and split the Ljutomer parish, according to the newspaper Dnevnik and domovina.je, a conservative news portal.
A camp supporting the priest started sending out anonymous and public letters in his defence and some alleged that Zrim was the victim of revenge by the bishop.
The supporters stepped up in his defence despite the priest having been convicted of assault on a minor 15 years ago and having a reputation in the local community for using severe corporeal punishment methods in Sunday school.
What therapy exactly the priest is supposed to undergo remains unclear, but Bishop Štumf indicated in a statement for Dnevnik it may be some kind of psychotherapy.
He mentioned a German Benedictine priest, Anselm Grün, as an example of "an extraordinarily successful psychotherapist" and several institutions in Italy.
Dnevnik said Zrim had never shown remorse and was a repeat offender, which raises questions about the effectiveness of any sort of psychological counselling for paedophiles.
The case against the priest was brought by three families, who decided to use Church channels instead of going to the police. However, Dnevnik reported that the police may yet take up the case as a matter of official duty considering the latest revelations.