The 46-year-old from Salzgitter, Lower Saxony, was found guilty of abusing three boys aged between nine and 15. He was spared a longer sentence because he admitted to 250 of the 280 suspected cases.
Of the reported incidents, 214 were classified by the court as serious sexual abuse, while the remaining 36 were classified simply as sexual abuse.
“He has systematically violated the trust that is bestowed upon Catholic priests,” said the Judge Manfred Teiwes.
The court, in the central German town of Braunschweig, heard how the unnamed priest befriended a widow from his congregation. He then pressed the woman to allow a friendship between him and her nine-year-old son. The mother said she felt the priest to be a “helpful and a good friend.”
Two years into the friendship, however, the boy’s mother feared their relationship was becoming inappropriate and contacted her local bishop. The priest was swiftly banned from contacting the boy.
It transpired that during his time spent with the boy, the priest had become what he considered to be a “replacement father” said Teiwes.
He would also help the nine-year-old get undressed and then sexually abused him in the bed they occasionally shared in his church accommodation. He also accompanied the boy on holidays either with others or alone.
Despite a warning from the church, the priest then became friendly with another family, and their two young sons were also among the boys reportedly abused.
An internal investigation is currently under way in the priest’s Hildesheim diocese, the results of which will be sent to the Vatican, along with the Braunschweig court report. The Vatican will then decide the man’s future position in the church.
“The man’s fate will either be decided in Rome or it will rest on the area’s bishop to decide,” a spokesman for Hildesheim Bishop Michael Lukas said.
He added that the disgraced priest should expect to be expelled from the church and that the church hopes a quick decision will help the families begin to recover.