Hungary’s most prestigious church-run boarding school for boys, at Pannonhalma abbey in the west of the country, has been hit by a sex abuse scandal after it emerged that a teacher had been “inappropriately touching” his students.
The highly popular secondary school teacher, who has since left the order, is said to have used his close relationship with students to carry out the abuse, chief abbot Asztrik Várszegi said in an interview with the women’s weekly Nők Lapja. His victims have come forward only now because they did not want to harm the reputation of the school, he added.
Mr. Várszegi explained that the school was approached by some of its former students last October who studied at the institution over ten years ago. They said that one of their former teachers and dormitory prefects had behaved in an “unacceptable manner” with them, adding that their only intention is to prevent similar cases from happening again. Subsequently, an inquest was launched on 4 November and the accused teacher was dismissed. Further victims were identified after talks with sixty of his former students. The findings have been forwarded to the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith in Rome which is expected to give a ruling, although the teacher has already left the order. An investigation has since been launched by the police.
The chief abbot said that the truth has to be faced no matter how painful it is “because this is the only way we can remain true to our Christian faith”. The school has offered legal, medical and psychological help to the victims.
The case echoes that of Pál Sipos, a former teacher at the state-run Trefort Gimnázium in Budapest, who also exploited his close relationship with students to carry out abuse in the Eighties and Nineties. Sipos later had a twenty-year career with state television.