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Norway's Catholic church reveals new abuse cases

OSLO (Reuters) - The Norwegian Catholic Church said Friday it was aware of four more potential sexual abuse cases by priests against minors, two days after it revealed that a bishop who resigned last year did so after abusing an altar boy.

Norwegian Catholic Bishop Bernt Eidsvig attends a news conference in Oslo April 9, 2010. REUTERS/Heiko Junge/Scanpix Norway

The abuse revelations in Norway are the latest to hit the Catholic Church, which has seen its reputation tarnished by a wave of similar accusations in Ireland, the United States, Germany and other countries.

Two of the cases in Norway apparently occurred in the 1950s, and involved alleged perpetrators that have since died, the head of the Catholic Church in Norway, Bishop Bernt Eidsvig, told a press conference Friday.

Another was said to have happened two decades ago, and could have involved a priest who has since left Norway. The last one was based on rumors, Eidsvig said.

Wednesday, the Norwegian Catholic Church and the Vatican acknowledged that the former bishop of Trondheim resigned last year after it was discovered he had sexually abused an altar boy some 20 years ago.

The case has been front page news in Norway, with commentators asking why the Church waited until nine months after Bishop Georg Mueller’s resignation to publicly admit the reasons for his departure.

“It was easy to keep quiet,” Bishop Eidsvig told reporters. “Under Norwegian law a priest does not have a duty to report what he has heard in internal forums, during confession or during pastoral care,” he said.

Eidsvig added that the victim of the abuse, who is now in his 30s, did not wish to report the case to the police.

Bishop Eidsvig said he would seek advice from Norway’s state prosecutor’s office on how to handle the cases that have been made public. He did not say whether he would contact the police.

Catholicism is a minor religion in the Nordic country, with only about 73,000 people registered as Catholics in a nation of 4.8 million. The state religion in Norway is Protestant Lutheranism.

Reporting by Gwladys Fouche; Editing by Noah Barkin