Priests at the Bavaria boarding school for boys in Regensbury, Germany, allegedly sexually assaulted up to 700 students by making them take off their clothes and bend over for whippings or forcible sex.
At least 231 and as many as 700 boys were subjected to “ritual abuse” by clergy men who ran the school from 1953 to 1992, according to Ulrich Weber, a German lawyer commissioned by the choir who represents the alleged victims.
“I have here 231 reports of physical abuse,” Weber said at a press conference on Friday, “The abuse ranges from sexual assault and rape to food deprivation to the boys who were less cooperative.”
The eight-month investigation points to the bulk of the abuses happening in the mid-1970s to boys who were being groomed for the famous Domspatzen boys choir of Regensberg’s St. Peter’s Cathedral. It was during this time that Father Georg Ratzinger was the choir leader from 1964 to 1994.
Ratzinger, who turns 92 next month and is the elder brother of Josef Ratzinger, better known as Pope Benedict XVI. When Weber was asked if Ratzinger knew what was going on, he said “After my research, I must assume so.”
According to The Daily Best, the first hints of the abuses surfaced in 2010, when the elder Ratzinger publicly apologized for “slapping students” but denied being aware of the violent abuse that was apparently rampant at the school — though he apparently hinted that he had heard rumors of abuse taking place on choir trips.
“I always had a bad conscience and I was happy when in 1980 corporal punishment was banned by lawmakers,” the elder brother said, describing the physical abuse as “the normal reaction to failings or disobedience” for offenses like a bad choral performance or adolescent misbehavior.
Two years before Benedict retired in 2010, the Holy See insisted that “the abuse was limited.” Investigators said they put the number of credible complaints at roughly 70 cases and offered a settlement of around $2,700.
Weber was then commissioned by the Domspatzen choir administrators to start collecting complaints and told the media about one-third (700) of the 2,100 students who attended the school over four decades were subject to varying forms of abuse.
According to The Guardian, most of the priests concerned are not expected to face criminal charges because the alleged crimes took place too long ago.
The choir dates back to 975 AD and has grown to become one of the most famous and prestigious choirs in the world, producing a number of successful composers and directors, including Franz Wittenbrink who eventually came forward when the allegations of abuse first surfaced, according to the Daily Beast.
The Vatican under Pope Francis has been far more transparent and apologetic about the crimes and systematic cover-up of abuse than Benedict ever was, but so far even Francis has remained silent on the recent reports from Regensburg.
“It hurts me and my soul—behind every single case is a human being, a child’s soul severely tortured and often marked for life by these acts,” the current bishop of the Regensburg diocese Rudolf Voderholzer said. “I cannot undo it and can only ask the victims for forgiveness.”
Featured image via Catholic Review of Books