The elder brother of retired Pope Benedict XVI said that he was unaware of any sexual abuse occurring at a choir boarding school he previously directed.
“These things were never discussed,” Fr. Georg Ratzinger told German newspaper Passauer Neue Presse. “The problem of sexual abuse that has now come to light was never spoken of.”
He also said that he was not aware of how serious physical abuse by one of the schoolmasters may have been, apologizing to victims.
His comments came after a lawyer charged by the Diocese of Regensburg with investigating alleged physical and sexual abuse at its cathedral's children's choir said his inquiry had found that more than 200 children may have been abused from the 1950s to the 1990s.
At a Jan. 8 press conference, Ulrich Weber said he had found 231 children who were allegedly physically or sexually abused by teachers or priests at the choir and its associated schools from 1953 to 1992.
Most of the abuse was corporal punishment, such as slapping or food deprivation. Corporal punishment in schools remained legal in portions of Germany until the 1980s.
Weber indicated that 50 persons had made plausible claims of sexual abuse, most of them dating from the mid to late 1970s.
He also estimated that one-third of the choir members would have suffered some form of physical abuse.
The Regensburger Domspatzen is the official choir for Regensburg's Cathedral of St. Peter, and it includes two boarding schools for boys. Fr. Ratzinger served as its director from 1964 to 1994.
Weber attributed much of the physical abuse to Johann Meier, who led one of the choir's boarding schools from 1953 to 1992, and who has since died.
Weber stated that “I must assume” Fr. Ratzinger had been aware of the abuse. “The events were known internally and criticized, but they had almost no consequences,” he added.
Fr. Ratzinger has said that at the time, slaps were commonly administered not only in the Regensburger Domspatzen, but was widespread in schools and in families. He had apologized in 2010 for such use of corporal punishment.
He has stated that he was never informed of sexual abuse at the cathedral choir.
The priest said that he was informed of physical abuse by Meier, but “did not have the feeling at the time that I should do something about it.”
“Had I known with what exaggerated fierceness he was acting, I would have said something,” he told Passauer Neue Presse, adding, “Of course, today one condemns such actions. I do as well. At the same time, I ask the victims for pardon.”