DEREK SCALLY in Berlin
POPE BENEDICT’S brother, Mgr Georg Ratzinger, has denied knowing about abuse cases during his time as leader of Germany’s most famous boys’ choir, the Regensburger Domspatzen or “cathedral sparrows”.
The latest revelations in Germany’s widening clerical abuse scandal came to light after former choirboys came forward to say they had been abused during the 1950s and 1960s.
Mgr Ratzinger led the choir from 1964 to 1994. Founded in 975, it is the oldest boys’ choir in the world and is based in a Regensburg boarding school with an emphasis on musical education.
It is here that the abuse took place, according to a statement by the diocese of Regensburg yesterday.
One man, a religion teacher and deputy principal, was removed in 1958 and charged; a second teacher was charged in 1971. The men have since died but a diocese spokesman yesterday said they could not rule out that other abuse cases would come to light.
“We ask all who have learned of sexual abuse of minors in our institution by clerics or other church staff, or those who are victims themselves, to report this to a member of the board,” the spokesman said. “We want to investigate this with complete transparency.”
Mgr Ratzinger told Bavarian public television yesterday that he had no knowledge of abuse in the choir, which performed last year in the Vatican for Mgr Ratzinger’s 85th birthday in the presence of Pope Benedict.
Meanwhile further damaging details have emerged about decades of abuse at the Bavarian Benedictine monastery and elite boarding school Kloster Ettal.
After the resignation of the principal last week, the school was raided by German investigators on Monday.
Yesterday an investigator called in by the school management presented a preliminary report detailing “decades of massive abuse: sexual, physical and psychological” at the school.
Mr Thomas Pfister, a Munich lawyer, said over 100 former students had contacted him “day and night” to tell of a “regime of terror” from the 1960s to the 1990s, involving around 10 different priests.
Pupils said they were sexually abused, forced to hit each other while priests looked on, or were locked in the cellar at night.
Mr Pfister said the faculty was not made up exclusively of “abusing criminals”, but that serious mistakes were allowed to persist because of an “institutional culture of silence, of looking the other way” and a “false sense of solidarity” among management.
One of the monks at Kloster Ettal has admitted downloading child pornography on to a school computer and uploading images of pupils to the internet. The pictures, showing pupils stripped to the waist, were taken during a hiking holiday a decade ago, and found by a former pupil on a gay website.
The abuse cases in Kloster Ettal are likely to have fallen beyond Germany’s statute of limitations, in such cases usually 10 years after the victim turns 18.
Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, head of the German Bishops’ Conference, is to meet Pope Benedict in the Vatican to discuss the cases on March 12th.