By Calvin Palmer
A sex abuse scandal involving Germany’s Roman Catholic Church reached a new level today when a former member of the Regensburg Boys Choir alleged church employees had abused him in the early 1960s.
Clemens Neck, a spokesman for the Regensburg Diocese, which oversees the school connected to the renowned Regensburger Domspatzen Boys Choir, gave no details on the extent of the abuse but said it happened before the Rev. Georg Ratzinger, the Pope’s brother, took over the choir in 1964.
Neck said that everything would be done to solve the crimes, even if they were decades old. He hopes to have a first report in two weeks’ time.
He said one chaplain was caught fondling two boys in 1958 and was subsequently removed from service by Ratzinger’s predecessor Theobald Schrems. The chaplain was sentenced to two years in prison.
Another case involved a further chaplain from the school, who was convicted in 1971. The diocese believes he committed the crimes sometime before June 1969, but could not give any more details.
Ratzinger, who led the choir of around500 boys and young men until his retirement in 1994, said in a radio interview today, with Bayerischer Rundfunk, that he did not know of any abuse cases at the choir.
The allegations by the former Domspatzen singer are part of a growing scandal involving the claims of seven former pupils at a Catholic-run Berlin high school to more than 170 ex-students from several of the church’s most prominent educational facilities in Germany, including the high school connected to the Domspatzen and the Ettal Monastery boarding school.
The Regensburg Diocese announced it was hiring a lawyer to help it carry out a “systematic” clarification of the abuse allegations that currently range from 1958 to 1973.
“We call on all victims to contact our representative for sexual abuse cases,” the dioceses said. “We would like to encourage people to come, to give a name to their suffering and, through this, to ease and eliminate the pain.”
The diocese said it also has leads on at least two other instances of sexual and physical abuse at schools in Etterzhausen and Weiden — both in the 1960s — as well as three other cases at music schools that train boys who go on to sing with the Domspatzen choir.
Ettal Monastery boarding school yesterday said the Vatican had confirmed it would send an inspector to look into accusations of sexual abuse made by 20 former students at the school.
Munich prosecutors last week opened an investigation into allegations of abuse against one member of the Benedictine-run school. The second priest who accused of sexual abuse has since died.