Wednesday 11 December 2019

I knew nothing of choir abuse allegations, says Pope's brother

Paul Raines in Rome

The brother of Pope Benedict XVI has agreed to give evidence in the sex scandal rocking the Catholic Church in Germany.

In an interview published yesterday, the Rev Georg Ratzinger said he was willing to speak even though he knew nothing about the alleged abuse of boys in a choir he later led.

Yesterday the Rome daily newspaper 'La Repubblica' quoted him saying that there was "discipline and rigour" but no terror during his 30 years as head of the choir.

The Regensburg Diocese has been rocked by the scandal since a former singer came forward with allegations of sexual abuse in the early 1960s last week. The German newsweekly 'Der Spiegel' reported that therapists in the region were treating several alleged victims.

A man who lived in the choir-linked boarding school until 1967 claimed "a sophisticated system of sadistic punishments in connection with sexual lust" had been installed there.


'Der Spiegel' quoted the man, Franz Wittenbrink, as saying it would be inexplicable that the Pope's brother did not know anything about it. Mr Ratzinger led the choir from 1964 until 1994.

The diocese has said it is hiring a lawyer to help carry out a "systematic" clarification.

Mr Ratzinger said if German justice officials "ask me to give testimony, obviously I'd be very ready to do so, but I am not able to provide any information".

"We're talking about another generation, of another generation than that of my years, and respect to the generation that leads the foundation and chorus now."

Asked why cases of alleged abuse were "covered by silence" for so long, he replied: "I insist, I wasn't around in that situation, I wasn't at the choir when the cases they're talking about happened."

Asked about victims' claims of a "climate of terror", Mr Ratzinger said: "In my years, thus after those deeds, there was a climate of discipline and rigour, that was obvious, too -- we were aiming for a high musical, artistic level."

The Pope's brother also wondered what was behind the recent allegations.

"I want to note that I sense a certain animosity toward the church" behind the scandal, Mr Ratzinger said.

Yesterday a prominent German Catholic activist group called on the Pope to explain what he knew about abuses.

Christian Weisner, the spokesman for We Are the Church, said Benedict must address whether there was abuse during his time as bishop between 1977 and 1981.

The Vatican said it backed the diocese's efforts to look into the "painful question in a decisive and open way".

Irish Independent

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