Vatican secrecy 'let German school abusers go unpunished'


Germany has blamed a “wall of silence” created by the Vatican for hampering investigations into decades of abuse of schoolchildren by Catholic clergy.

Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, the Justice Minister, said that Vatican secrecy rules, including a 2001 directive requiring even the most serious cases to be investigated first by Church officials, were complicating efforts to shed light on claims of abuse at some of Germany’s most highly regarded schools.

Many of the alleged cases fall outside the 20-year statute of limitations, so abusers are protected from prosecution. Annette Schavan, the Education Minister, said that the limit on sex crimes involving children must be re-examined.

A string of sex-abuse claims have emerged since seven former pupils of the Canisius-Kolleg preparatory school in Berlin came forward in January claiming to have been abused.

Allegations were then made by former pupils at other schools including Aloisiuskolleg in Bonn, St Blasien, another Jesuit-run boarding school in the Black Forest, and Catholic schools in Hamburg, Göttingen and Hildesheim. Allegations about child molestation by Benedictine priests were made at the Ettal Monastery and St Ottilien boarding schools in Bavaria.

Reports emerged yesterday that up to 100 pupils at the non-Catholic Odenwald-schule, a private boarding school in Hesse, were regularly sexually abused.

On Friday came the news that the brother of Pope Benedict XVI may have to give evidence because the famous church choir he once led — the Domspatzen, or Cathedral Sparrows, of Regensburg — was being investigated over sexual abuse allegations.

“I never knew anything,” Bishop Georg Ratzinger, 86, told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica. “The incidents that are being talked about go back 50 or 60 years to the 1950s. It was another generation than when I was there.” He says that he spoke about the scandals on a trip to see his brother in Rome.

The composer Franz Wittenbrink, an ex-pupil of the boarding school attached to the Domspatzen choir, told Der Spiegel magazine that he “could not understand” how Bishop Ratzinger, master of the chapel from 1964, could not have been aware.

adamonTuesday 09 March 2010 - 11:53:37

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