Report: Hundreds of boys abused at German choir school

(WikiMedia Commons/Michael Vogl)

BERLIN (AP) - At least 547 members of a prestigious Catholic boys' choir in Germany were physically or sexually abused between 1945 and 1992, according to a report released Tuesday.

Allegations involving the Domspatzen choir in Regensburg, which was run for 30 years by Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI's elder brother, were among a spate of revelations of abuse by Roman Catholic clergy in Germany that emerged in 2010. In 2015, lawyer Ulrich Weber was tasked with producing a report on what happened.

The report said that 547 boys at the Domspatzen's school "with a high degree of plausibility" were victims of physical or sexual abuse, or both. It counted 500 cases of physical violence and 67 of sexual violence, committed by a total of 49 perpetrators.

At the choir's pre-school, "violence, fear and helplessness dominated" and "violence was an everyday method," it said.

"The whole system of education was oriented toward top musical achievements and the choir's success," the report said. "Alongside individual motives, institutional motives—namely, breaking the will of the children with the aim of maximum discipline and dedication—formed the basis for violence."

The report's authors said that they checked the plausibility of 591 potential victims' cases.

The choir was led from 1964 to 1994 by Benedict's brother, the Rev. Georg Ratzinger.


Ratzinger has acknowledged slapping pupils after he took over the choir, though such punishments were commonplace in Germany at that time. He also said he was aware of allegations of physical abuse at the elementary school and did nothing about it, but he was not aware of sexual abuse.

The report faulted Ratzinger "in particular for 'looking away' or for failing to intervene."

It also cited criticism by victims of the Regensburg diocese's initial efforts to investigate past abuse. It said that the bishop at the time the allegations surfaced, Gerhard Ludwig Müller, bears "clear responsibility for the strategic, organizational and communicative weaknesses" of those efforts.

Cardinal Müller became the head of the Vatican's doctrine office in 2012. Pope Francis recently removed him from that job.

Current Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer has already announced plans to offer victims compensation of between 5,000 and 20,000 euros ($5,730 and $22,930) each by the end of this year.
Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

“To love the poor means to combat all forms of poverty, spiritual and material."
Gerard O’ConnellNovember 19, 2017
Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago speaks Nov. 13 during the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)
Cardinal Bernardin’s consistent ethic of life could be helpful as the church grapples with issues like migration, health care and even taxes, some bishops say.
Michael J. O’LoughlinNovember 17, 2017
Giant machines dig for brown coal at the open-cast mining Garzweiler in front of a power plant near the city of Grevenbroich in western Germany in April 2014. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)
“What we need to do is just continue to live out the challenge of ‘Laudato Si’,’ which is to examine our relationship with the earth, with God and with each other to see how we can become better stewards of this gift of the earth.”
Kevin ClarkeNovember 17, 2017
Hipsters love the authentic, the craft and the obscure—which is exactly why Catholicism, in its practices and its aesthetic, is perfectly suited for them.
Zac DavisNovember 17, 2017