BERLIN, Germany — At least 547 members of a prestigious Catholic boys’ choir in Germany run by the brother of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI 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 Benedict’s elder brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, were among a spate of revelations of abuse by 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 the elder Ratzinger, who is now 93.
Ratzinger said in a 2010 interview with Passauer Neue Presse that he would “often give clips around the ear even though my conscience was later troubled for doing this,” but added he never injured a child or left bruises, and said he was happy when corporal punishment was banned in 1980.
Before corporal punishment was outlawed, such discipline was commonplace in Germany.
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.
“I knew that the rector there was violent and would beat the boys hard, and that he would do it for no reason,” Ratzinger said.
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.
Müller, later made a cardinal, became the head of the Vatican’s doctrine office in 2012. Pope Francis recently did not renew his mandate at the beginning of this month, replacing him with Spanish Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer.
Current Bishop of Regensburg, Rudolf Voderholzer, has already announced plans to offer victims compensation of between 5,000 and 22,000 dollars each by the end of this year.
Crux staff contributed to this report.