The future Dr. Svensson of Sweden

One possible source of the Vatican’s lax attitude to sexual abusers in the clergy is that the Vatican is staffed by Europeans who consider America’s harsh punishments of crime barbaric.

Sweden, the New York Times reports, has a convicted neo-Nazi murderer in medical school.

Mr. Svensson…was convicted in the 1999 hate murder of a trade union worker and was paroled after serving 6 ½ years of an 11-year sentence — a typical penalty for murder in Sweden.

His sentence by American standards was lenient.

In contrast with the United States, Swedish laws and customs are sympathetic to released offenders, saying that once they have served their time they should be treated like ordinary citizens.

Although Swensson

has not publicly expressed regret for his crime

one should not be harsh on him.

A Swedish medical student opines:

Mr. Svensson should be allowed to become a doctor. “Who is to say that he might not become a great doctor, even if it in some ways would feel wrong or awkward to have a murderer for a colleague?” he asked. “It is not fair to have preconceptions about his character.”

Even if they are murderers.

Although the entrance to the state-financed slots at the medicals school are extremely competitive (2.603 applicants for 100 positions), the board that interviewed Swenson was not curious about his background:

The disclosures about his past proved deeply embarrassing to the institute. Among other things, two senior faculty members on the admissions committee that interviewed him failed to ask for an explanation of the six-and-a-half-year gap in his résumé, the period he was in prison.

So they admitted him, although there were repercussions:

A year ago, Sweden’s most prestigious medical school found itself in an international uproar after it unknowingly admitted a student who was a Nazi sympathizer and a convicted murderer, then scrambled to find a way to expel him.

The medical school decided that being a murderer was not enough; he had also falsified his records, and that was a serious matter, although not everyone agreed

Eventually he was expelled; but that is not the end of it.

The 33-year-old student, Karl Helge Hampus Svensson, having been banished from the medical school of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm on the ground that he falsified his high school records, has now been admitted to a second well-known medical school — Uppsala, Sweden’s oldest university.

The murderer is in medical school; the court records about the murder victim have conveniently and mysteriously disappeared, like many pages from the court records of priest-abusers in Boston.

In another embarrassing twist, a Swedish newspaper reported last month that much of the verdict and court files regarding Bjorn Soderberg, Mr. Svensson’s murder victim, had been cut out or replaced with blank pages. The police said they had been unable to find a culprit.

If murderers can make good doctors, a fortiori sexual criminals can:

And in still another case, a 24-year-old medical student at Lund University was convicted last April of raping a 14-year-old boy while he slept. A district court sentenced the student to two years in prison, but a higher court reduced the sentence to two years’ probation and medical therapy.

When the dean at Lund sought to expel the student, a national board that reviews expulsions blocked the action, saying that although the man had committed a serious crime, he was not considered a threat to people or property.

Doctors, even more than priests, have contact with extremely vulnerable people. But Europeans shy away from the harsh attitude to criminals that Americans have, and perhaps that explains the Vatican’s attitude to the clerical criminals that infested the Church in the United States.

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