• Germany's news in English
 

Pope's brother oblivious to choir sexual abuse

Published: 08 Mar 2010 08:32 GMT+01:00
Updated: 08 Mar 2010 14:24 GMT+01:00

"I never knew anything," Georg Ratzinger told Italian newspaper La Repubblica. "The incidents that are being talked about go back 50 or 60 years to the 1950s. It was another generation than when I was there."

"It's also another generation than (the one) that currently leads the foundation and the choir," he added.

The director and composer Franz Wittenbrink, a former pupil of the boarding school attached to the Domspatzen (Cathedral Sparrows) choir, has spoken of an "ingenious system of sadistic punishments connected to sexual pleasure" at the school.

In comments published in Monday's edition of Der Spiegel news weekly, he accused a former head of the school of "taking two or three boys into his room in the evenings," giving them wine and masturbating with them.

Wittenbrink told the magazine it was well known what went on at the school, and he "could not understand how the pope's brother Georg Ratzinger, who was master of the chapel from 1964, could not have been aware."

The Domspatzen allegations are part of a widening sex scandal rocking Germany's Roman Catholic Church, which includes allegations of abuse at a number of institutions, including a monastic school in the southern town of Ettal.

Asked about the impact of the scandals, Ratzinger, who is a bishop, voiced concern about a "certain animosity towards the Church" as well as feelings of "resentment and hostility."

"It seems to me that behind these affirmations there is clear intention to speak against the Church," he said in reference to the string of recent revelations in the German press. He told the newspaper that he was "entirely ready" to appear before a court if authorities considered it necessary.

According to La Repubblica and other media, Ratzinger spoke about the scandal with his brother, Pope Benedict XVI, during a recent visit to Rome.

Meanwhile Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said that a "wall of silence" was particularly prevalent at Catholic-run schools because of a 2001 Church directive that cases of abuse be "subject to papal confidentiality."

This meant that allegations of abuse "were not supposed to go outside the Church but instead were meant to be investigated internally," the minister told Deutschlandfunk radio.

Stephan Ackermann, the bishop of Trier, who has been put in charge of investigating abuse by the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference, rejected this, saying that common Church practice was for state authorities to investigate.

None of the priests concerned is expected to face criminal charges because the alleged crimes took place too long ago. At present cases can only be pursued for 20 years after a victim turns 18.

But the expanding scandal at Catholic institutions and new revelations about sexual abuse at a progressive boarding school over the weekend sparked calls from German politicians to extend the statute of limitations for such crimes.

Education Minister Annette Schavan from the Christian Democrats called current laws in question on Sunday. Her doubts about the current legal situation were echoed by Ralf Stegner, the leader of the Social Democrats in the state of Schleswig-Holstein.

“It must be possible keep the unreported cases to a minimum and break the decades of silence,” Stegner told daily Hamburger Abendblatt, adding that statute of limitation rules should be reviewed.

Over the weekend, media reports revealed that between 50 and 100 pupils at the progressive Odenwaldschule private boarding school in Hesse were regularly sexually abused. The news follows a series of revelations about abuse in Catholic schools in Germany, many of which have been deemed beyond court jurisdiction because they occurred decades ago.

However Justice Minister Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger rejected the calls for the statute of limitations to be changed or even scrapped altogether in cases of child abuse.

"I don't think this would be a silver bullet," she said.

AFP/DDP/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

12:31 March 8, 2010 by Bushdiver
Did no one notice the large amount of ky jelly ordered eah month?
15:06 March 8, 2010 by auniquecorn
it was Dark, I thought it was a flute.
19:16 March 8, 2010 by biker hotel harz
I really can't see what all the fuss is about. Younger boys have been fagging for eons in public schools in the UK, Why shoud German Catholic schools, colleges be any different.

To be honest, I'd be more worried if there was no abuse going on behind closed doors. I mean, it's the norm innit?

I can see this enquiry fizzling out to be honest, especially as the Church is investigating itself ................. a bit like the A10 investigating the Metropolitan Police.
06:27 March 9, 2010 by Thames
I am glad to see so many posts find this situation funny.
07:05 March 9, 2010 by auniquecorn
I´d like to stay and leave a comment, But I´m late for my Organ lessons at school.
17:04 March 10, 2010 by dbert4
See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. But up to their arsches in it!
Today's headlines
Sudeten Germans give up 'right to homeland'
Sudeten Germans practising traditional dance at a gathering in 2014. Photo: DPA

Sudeten Germans give up 'right to homeland'

The Sudeten German Homeland Association has given up its claim to the group's former home in parts of the Czech Republic, quieting one of the final echoes of the Second World War. READ  

Minister draws fire over wage transparency plan
Families Minister Manuela Schwesig. Photo: DPA

Minister draws fire over wage transparency plan

Families Minister Manuela Schwesig confirmed on Sunday that she wants a new law allowing women to compare their wages with men doing similar work, provoking angry reactions from employers. READ  

Police wind down Bremen terror response
Heavily-armed police on patrol outside Bremen cathedral. Photo: DPA

Police wind down Bremen terror response

Police in Bremen said that the risk of a terrorist attack had been reduced in the city after they arrested two suspected arms dealers. The city remains under high alert, with special protection for the Jewish community. READ  

Germany's Schäuble softens Greece tone
Photo: DPA

Germany's Schäuble softens Greece tone

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said Sunday Greece's new hard-left government needs "a bit of time" but is committed to implementing necessary reforms to resolve its debt crisis. READ  

UK Pegida rally dwarfed by counter-demo
Photo: DPA

UK Pegida rally dwarfed by counter-demo

An estimated 375 people turned out for the Germany-based PEGIDA movement's first demonstration in Britain on Saturday, but were outnumbered by a 2,000-strong crowd of counter-protesters, police said. READ  

Greek PM vows to 'start working hard' after vote
Photo: DPA

Greek PM vows to 'start working hard' after vote

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras vowed Friday to "start working hard" to implement vital reforms in the stricken eurozone country, after Germany's parliament approved a four month extension to its bailout. READ  

Ukraine: troop deaths 'serious breach' of truce
Photo: DPA

Ukraine: troop deaths 'serious breach' of truce

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko declared the killing of three government troops by pro Moscow rebels a "serious breach of the ceasefire", during a telephone call Friday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, her office said. READ  

Man wins court battle over loud footsteps
Trouble at the top. Photo: DPA

Man wins court battle over loud footsteps

Germany's highest civil court ruled in favour of a man who swapped the carpet in his new apartment for parquet flooring, incurring the wrath of the retired couple who lived below him over his loud footsteps. READ  

Teachers to strike nationwide from Monday
Photo: DPA

Teachers to strike nationwide from Monday

Teachers all over the country are expected to stike starting Monday, German education trade union GEW said, after negotiations with the wage commission of the federal states (TdL) failed to achieve results. READ  

EU court deals blow to US Iraq objector's hopes
Andre Shepherd at the European Court of Justice in June 2014. Photo: DPA

EU court deals blow to US Iraq objector's hopes

American soldier Andre Shepherd, who applied for asylum in Germany as a conscientious objector against the war in Iraq after going AWOL from his unit, saw a judgement by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) go against him on Thursday. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Features
Kafka: puzzling translators 100 years on
Business & Money
France or Germany: Which country really is the best country to work in?
Photo: Police
Rhineland
Student driver crashes tank into family garden.
Photo: DPA
Politics
There was a notable absence at the Anti-Semitism Commission
Sponsored Article
Tourist or lifer: what sort of expat are you?
National
How Dresden bombing still divides Germany, 70 years on
Sponsored Article
Are you an American expat? How to face FATCA
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Take a cute break with this gallery of baby animals
International
What's keeping UK expats from voting?
Photo: DPA
National
Terror alert at a new high. Should you be worried?
Gallery
The best regional foods TTIP opponents want to protect
Photo: DPA
Features
All you ever needed to know about Pegida
Photo: Shutterstock
Culture
This cosplayer did not think his plan through
National
Europe in statistics - from Spain to Sweden
Gallery
Top 12 German idioms
Culture
10 top tips for partying in Germany
Photo: DPA
Technology
What does the Chancellor see as the future of the internet?
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,199
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd