VATICAN CITY – The Vatican said Saturday it backed a German diocese's efforts to shed light on sexual abuse allegations connected to a renowned boy's choir once led by Pope Benedict XVI's brother.
The Regensburg Diocese, which oversees the school connected to the Regensburger Domspatzen choir, said Friday that a former singer came forward with allegations of sexual abuse in the early 1960s, and that it was hiring a lawyer to help it carry out a "systematic" clarification of abuse allegations.
The Vatican said it supported the diocese in its "willingness to analyze the painful question in a decisive and open way."
"The main reason for the church's clarification is to render justice to possible victims," the Vatican said in a statement published in its newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano.
Mons. Gerhard Ludwig Mueller, the bishop of the Regensburg Diocese, said in L'Osservatore that the cases that have so far emerged "do not coincide with the term of Prof. Georg Ratzinger," the pope's brother, who led the choir from 1964 to 1994. Ratzinger told German public radio he did not know of any abuse cases at the choir.
German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel reported in Monday's issue that therapists in the region are treating several alleged abuse victims from the choir.
Franz Wittenbrink, who lived in the boarding school until 1967, was quoted as saying that a "sophisticated system of sadistic punishments in connection with sexual lust" had been installed there. "Everyone knew it."
Wittenbrink argued that the pope's brother must have known of these practices. "To me it is inexplicable, how the pope's brother, Georg Ratzinger, who led the choir since 1964, would have not known about it," the magazine quoted Wittenbrink as saying. An advance of the article was released Saturday.
From 1969 to 1977 the pope, then Joseph Ratzinger, taught theology at the University of Regensburg.
Germany's has recently been hit hard by a Catholic Church sex abuse scandal, which has grown from 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.