German sex probe widens

2010-03-05 16:08

Berlin - A sexual abuse scandal rocking Germany's Catholic Church widened on Friday to include a thousand-year-old boys' choir led for three decades by Pope Benedict XVI's brother.

A report into alleged abuse at a monastic school in Ettal, meanwhile, said that minors "were massively abused over decades, sexually, physically and psychologically" by several monks in the past.

The famed Domspatzen (Cathedral Sparrows) choir in the southern city of Regensburg, founded in 975, acknowledged in a "letter to parents" published on its website that a child had been abused in the 1950s.

"To our knowledge the boarding school principal at the time was tried and convicted. He has since died," the choir said.

It also said a former choir member in the early 1960s had recently told a newspaper that he had been sexually molested.

"At this point it is not clear whether the alleged abuse occurred in our institution or the Etterzhausen preschool," it said.

However a spokesperson for the Regensburg bishopric, Clemens Neck, said that they had further "information about alleged abuse between 1958 and 1973.
"We plan to investigate with total transparency," Neck said.


Two former members of staff at the Domspatzen, which includes a boarding school and a music college, were previously jailed for abuse, and both died in 1984, Neck said.

One of them was the deputy director, Friedrich Z., a former religious studies teacher hired in 1953 and expelled five years later from the musical college.
He was given a two-year jail term before going to work in a convent in Switzerland between 1961 and 1982.

"We do not know what kind of abuse there was or whether there were other victims after his conviction. This is being looked into," Neck said, declining to give further details.

The second man, a former director of the boarding school for Domspatzen choirboys, was "according to our research, jailed for 11 years in 1971 for abuse committed before May 30 1969," Neck said.

"We don't know what happened after his release."

The pope's brother, 86-year-old Georg Ratzinger, led the Domspatzen between 1964 and 1993. He has not been accused of abuse.

Sexual exploitation

In addition to singing in Regensburg's cathedral, the Domspatzen also go on tour and in 2009 they performed in the Sistine Chapel in Rome in celebrations for Ratzinger's 85th birthday.

The latest revelations come days after the German Episcopal Conference put Stephan Ackermann, bishop of the western city of Trier, in charge of probing sexual exploitation of children at a number of Catholic institutions in the country.

The chairperson of the Conference, Robert Zollitsch, is to meet the pope on March 12 at the Vatican to discuss the cases.

The scandal in Germany broke in January when an elite Jesuit school in Berlin admitted the systematic sexual abuse of its pupils by two Roman Catholic priests in the 1970s and 1980s.

Last month two priests and a college rector resigned over abuse cases.

An independent investigator hired by the Jesuit order said that so far around 120 people had come forward alleging abuse.