Investigations into charges of sexual and physical abuse of
children by German Catholic priests are getting under way, and
involve a choir run by Pope Benedict's brother. Did the pontiff know
about the allegations when he was a bishop in his home country? "We
do not know," a German Catholic church spokesman said.
German Catholic church authorities here launched two intertwined
investigations Wednesday into allegations of abuse by members of the
clergy. One is looking into allegations about the brother of Pope
Benedict XVI and the second into how much members of the German
clergy - including the German-born pope - knew about the
allegations, which date back to the 1950s. The pope's older brother,
Rev. Georg Ratzinger, was in charge of the select Regensburger
Domspatzen boys' choir from 1964 to 1994. Members of that choir have
alleged in recent weeks that choir leaders physically and sexually
assaulted them on numerous occasions. The Catholic diocese of
Regensburg in southern Germany has appointed independent lawyer
Andreas Scheulen to head the investigation. Rev. Ratzinger told
Passauer Neue Presse, a German daily, that the sexual abuse
allegations occurred before he was in charge of the choir, but said
that he was not aware of the problem. He also told the German
newspaper that he had slapped members of the choir in the 1960s, a
common practice in Catholic schools at the time.
The emerging scandal about abusive priests and a possible cover-
up by Church leaders comes after a string of similar allegations
against the church in recent years that has left many Catholics
disillusioned and questioning the Vatican's moral leadership.
In 2002, church leaders in Boston were found to have shuffled
priests around to other dioceses when allegations of pedophilia
surfaced against them in the Boston Globe. That scandal, plus
similar ones in Texas, California, and elsewhere, have cost the
church hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements with victims.
This past December, a government inquiry in Ireland found church
leaders and the Irish police covered up sexual abuse of children
there for over 30 years.
Mr. Scheulen's investigation is expected to be finished in a few
weeks. Rev. Ratzinger did not return calls for comment, but has
publicly asked for forgiveness. The second investigation will be
conducted by the Catholic diocese of Regensburg in southern Germany
and will explore allegations that boys were sexually and physically
abused at Catholic schools around Germany. So far, more than 170
former students have accused clergy members of sexual or physical