SVT's reporter Marja Grill interviews ”Anna”.  ”It feels like a betrayal. To some degree they have ruined my emotional life and my belief in God.”, says ”Anna”.

Accusations of sexual assault in Sweden’s Catholic Church

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SVT can now reveal new accusations of sexual assault within the Catholic Church. A Swedish monk lost assignments and was ordered to go into therapy for ”inappropirate closeness” with a young woman.
SVT has spoken to “Anna”, who says he put his hands on her breasts and between her legs.
“I’m ashamed of it,” says the monk when we reach him on the phone.
But SVT can reveal that he has continued to teach young people.

In October, SVT News revealed that two Catholic priests suspected of abusing children in the US have also worked in Sweden. Both were subsequently accused of sexual abuse in Falun and Malmö respectively, and forced by the Catholic Diocese to leave Sweden. 

Our continued investigation has presented us with another case, this time involving a currently active Swedish monk accused of assaulting a young woman. 

“He touched my breasts” 

”Anna” was 16 when she joined the youth group led by the monk, who was over twenty years her senior. She felt seen and acknowledged.She says the monk got physical right from the start, touching her and stroking her neck. He became her confidant and support. When she was in her twenties she felt that their relationship was getting too close and unhealthy. She tried to break free but it made things worse. 

“He put his hands on my breasts, up my skirt and between my legs, he put his arms around me, things like that,” she says. 

Anna says she froze and did not know what to do, since this was somebody she looked up to. In the following months, she says, he repeatedly touched her underwear and breasts when no one saw. She told no one while it went on. 

“I was too embarrassed.” 

The monk: “It is a sin” 

SVT reaches the monk by telephone, and when we explain why we are calling he immediately knows which case we are talking about. 

“I cannot excuse this, however much I would like to. I just can’t,” he says. 

He says he has “made a mess of things” and that he feels ashamed. 

“A sin is always wrong… It is a sin. Of course I regret it,” he says. 

The monk agrees to an interview, but later changes his mind. 

Reported in 2012 

”Anna” left the small town and it was not until a decade later, when she returned in 2012, that she could face reporting the monk to the Catholic Church.  

We visit the monk’s place of work and ask to see his superior, who has previously declined an interview. 

The superior was asked by his order to head the Church’s investigation of the alleged assault. He and the Catholic Church claim that this was a long-running relationship between two adults. Nobody contacted the police since it would have been too late to press charges, according to the Church. 

Looking back, do you think you should have reported it and let professionals investigate to see if any crime had been committed? 

“No. I didn’t want to report it then and I don’t want to report it now,” says the monk’s superior.

Questioned

But Anna was questioned during a meeting with three men from the Church, and we have obtained the protocol. 

Present at the meeting were canon lawyer Jorge de Salas and the monk’s superior opposite Anna, as well as deacon Björn Håkonsson, who had been asked by Anna to come along for support. 

The monk had already been questioned by his superior and admitted to embracing and kissing Anna,although he claimed she had “clung to him”, according to the protocol.

During the meeting Anna was repeatedly asked by the monk’s superior about her own part in what happened. 

He said that Anna “could have stopped at any point”. 

“I must say that I’m a bit shaken from hearing what he has said about you”, he said. 

Anna cried during the questioning and felt accused. 

The monk’s superior argued that they were both victims, saying that “he walks around crying and is very shaken”. He said he could understand why the monk “got into trouble”. 

Canon lawyer Jorge de Salas said in the meeting that “opportunity makes the thief”. 

Deacon Björn Håkonsson, who is now the children’s advocate of Sweden’s Catholic Church, asked repeatedly if the others were taking Anna’s words seriously. 

“Aren’t you upset by this? Aren’t you shocked?”, he said. 

Today, Håkonsson says it was not a good meeting but does not want to be interviewed.

No police

The possibility of contacting the police was never mentioned. Canon lawyer Jorge de Salas tells SVT that informing Anna of that possibility was irrelevant, since the prosecution period for the crimes in question had expired. In his view Anna did not need legal representation since she was not accused of any crime. 

Johanna Björkman, a lawyer and previously a prosecutor, does not buy that explanation. 

“Let somebody else decide if the prosecution period has expired, or if any crime has been committed. These issues should be investigated by police, not by some other system which is outside of our judicial system,” says Björkman. 

Criticism from legal experts

SVT News has showed the protocol to legal experts, who criticise the investigation.

“It is obvious from the way the protocol is written that the church representatives blame her. How did she act? What letters did she send him?,” says Sven-Erik Alhem, who was previously the Director of Public Prosecution and currently leads Victim Support Sweden. 

Also, the whole investigation was to be kept secret. The canon lawyer said during the meeting that names should be kept out of the protocol, to avoid them becoming known to others.

The purpose is to improve the work with youths, not to impose “punishment”, he said.

“They try to get her to agree to keeping the whole thing quiet, claiming that it is out of consideration for her and her family, but in reality, the way I see it, it is the Catholic Church they are trying to protect,” says Sven-Erik Alhem. 

Sweden’s Catholic Church writes in a reply to SVT that standard procedures have been followed in that the investigation should be carried out by the monk’s own order, adding that they have appointed a group which will look into how Anna was treated during the questioning. 

Lost assignments 

But the monk was disciplined by the highest leaders of his order in Rome. He lost assignments, was ordered to go into therapy, and was banned from working alone with children or youths.

But SVT can reveal that he has continued working with youths.

The superior of the accused monk says he does not believe the monk has been alone with any of the youths, and that they revised their routines after the incident.

”A betrayal” 

Anna feels that the Church has protected the monk.

 ”It feels like a betrayal. To some degree they have ruined my emotional life and my belief in God.” 

 SVT has unsuccessfully tried to get a comment from the leaders of the order in Rome. 

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