VATICAN CITY (RNS) The elder brother of Pope Benedict XVI admitted striking members of the German boys’ choir that he led for three decades, but denied knowing that some of the boys were victims of clerical sex abuse.
“I must admit that I often became depressed, because (the boys) did not achieve the results I wanted, and at the beginning I often handed out slaps, though afterwards my conscience pricked me for doing so,” Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, who led the Regensburg cathedral choir from
1964 to 1994, told the German newspaper Passauer Neue Presse in an interview published Tuesday (March 9).
Ratzinger denied knowledge of any sexual abuse but admitted knowing that another Catholic priest, the longtime headmaster of the choir boys’ boarding school, gave students “very violent slaps … for very trifling reasons.”
Because the school was an independent institution, Ratzinger said, he lacked the standing to report the headmaster to the authorities.
On Monday (March 8), the Web site of the German magazine Der Spiegel reported charges that the headmaster, identified in press reports only by the initial “M,” regularly administered naked beatings and forced students to participate in group sexual encounters.
The Regensburg choir is only the latest Catholic institution to be embroiled in a spreading clerical sex abuse scandal in the pope’s homeland.
On Friday (March 12), Benedict will meet with Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg, president of the German bishops’ conference, to discuss at least 170 abuse allegations involving children at Catholic schools. The charges, which surfaced in January, have prompted prosecutors to launch an investigation.
On Monday (March 8), German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger denounced what she called the church’s “wall of silence” around sex abuse. She specifically cited a 2001 letter signed by Benedict, then known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, which reserved preliminary investigation of abuse charges to the Vatican itself.
The German revelations come amid growing reports of clerical sex abuse in other European countries, including Austria, Ireland and the Netherlands.
— Francis X. Rocca
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