• 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
Germany heightens travel warning for Turkey
A view of Istanbul. Photo: DPA.

Germany heightens travel warning for Turkey

The German government has issued more severe warnings about travelling to Turkey after a string of terror attacks in the south of the country, and as Ankara intensifies conflict against two militias in Syria and Iraq. READ  

Fireman turned arsonist jailed for 3 years
Fire services extinguish an unrelated fire in Hamburg in 2011. Photo: DPA

Fireman turned arsonist jailed for 3 years

After a series of arson attacks over several months, an ex-fireman has been sentenced to three years in jail without chance of bail. READ  

Mother slams IKEA for rejecting autistic son
Photo: DPA

Mother slams IKEA for rejecting autistic son

A mother from North Rhine-Westphalia has accused furniture chain IKEA of debasement, discrimination and marginalization – after employees in their Dortmund store refused to let her autistic son into the children's play area. READ  

Wallaby goes walkabout in Berlin outback
Photo: Gemeinde Nuthe-Urstromtal

Wallaby goes walkabout in Berlin outback

A woman in a village south of Berlin was shocked to find a rather unusual visitor in her garden on Tuesday. But by the time police got there he'd already bounced. READ  

Munich upholds ban on Jewish 'memory blocks'
A pedestrian walks by a group of Stolpersteine. Photo: DPA

Munich upholds ban on Jewish 'memory blocks'

The Munich City Council said on Wednesday that it had voted to continue banning the placement of blocks commemorating Jewish Holocaust victims in city streets - a ban that garnered surprising support from Jewish community leaders. READ  

13-year-old boy detained for trying to join Isis
Batlle in Syria. Photo: DPA

13-year-old boy detained for trying to join Isis

A young teen from Munich was detained near the Turkish border with Syria on Friday as he was trying to join the radical Islamist group Isis. READ  

The Local List
Six odd ways Germans talk about the weather
Photo: DPA

Six odd ways Germans talk about the weather

Is it absolutely roasting, or raining cats and dogs? Neither if you live in Germany. Here are six wonderfully weird expressions Germans use to talk about the weather - some more literal than others. READ  

Little by little, Germans move away from cash
Photo: DPA

Little by little, Germans move away from cash

Tourists and business travellers visiting Germany are often surprised when they reach to pay for their beer, metro tickets or even a large restaurant bill that their credit cards are not welcome. Habits, however, are slowly changing as younger consumers leapfrog from cash to convenient electronic forms of payment. READ  

Satire and reality blur in parody party's strife
Martin Sonneborn. Photo: DPA

Satire and reality blur in parody party's strife

After winning a seat in the European Parliament last year on a commitment to 'milking Brussels,' satirical party Die Partei broke new ground. Now a 'Nazi Putsch' threatens to split the party asunder. READ  

Pelicans with wanderlust escape German zoo
These feathered fugitives took flight from the zoo to get a birds-eye view of the world. Photo: DPA.

Pelicans with wanderlust escape German zoo

A pair of pelicans with a serious case of wanderlust flew the coop from Osnabrück Zoo last week, only to find their way back days later. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Culture
Berlin restaurant serves up Greek Crisis Menu
Rhineland
Doctor on trial after woman wakes in morgue
Society
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Sponsored Article
Outsourcing drives Apreel's Europe growth
Society
Police bust kinky Bavarian couple over painful love-making
Politics
Merkel brings Palestinian girl to tears
Hamburg
Amateur archaeologist finds Nazi gold hoard
National
Could Merkel learn a lesson in love from this doppelganger?
Travel
Why you should stay in Germany for the summer holidays
Sport
German press tell Schweinsteiger 'good riddance'
National
Hamburg gets a bouncing 100kg baby girl
Society
In North Germany, money sometimes DOES grow on trees
National
Hero mechanics stop Bavaria shooting spree
International
Denmark says that border controls are coming
National
Did hackers take control of German missile battery?
Politics
Munich gives gay pride green light
Business & Money
Berlin rent controls hit prices hard
National
Fighting to breastfeed in public without shame
Society
Ice cream for dogs 'gobbled up in one gulp'
Education
Are hotpants a feminist issue?
Rhineland
Lion cub reunited with mother
National
How the heatwave is cracking Germany's Autobahns
International
Why the French are more sympathetic to Greece than the Germans
Sponsored Article
Crans-Montana: International expat hub
Gallery
Police seize pensioner's WW2 heavy weapons haul
National
How to survive the Europe-wide heatwave
Sport
Is Schweini already out of the door at Bayern?
Politics
How German media shaped the Greece crisis
National
Car assembly robot crushes worker at Volkswagen
Rhineland
Weathermen red-faced over heatwave snow warning
Society
An eye for an eye? Mum protects child in playground with pepperspray
National
As it happened: Queen Elizabeth's final day in Germany
National
As it happened: Queen Elizabeth's second day in Germany
National
Queen Elizabeth II's first day in Germany - as it happened
National
Bus passengers tell fake racists where to get off
Politics
What's really in the Queen's handbag?
National
Germans say USA doesn't respect freedom
National
Yes, you CAN buy adult e-books before 10pm in Germany
VIDEO: Watch a 93-metre turbine crash to earth in slow motion
Gallery
Who's got a shot at the German Film Awards
Rhineland
Anger over 'child-free' beer garden
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

7,035
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd