As It Happens

Lawyer: Retired pope's brother knew of sex abuse in his school

A lawyer charged with investigating decades of wrongdoing at Germany's Regensburg Choir boarding school says at least 231 children were victims -- and that the abuse was likely even more widespread.
Pope Benedict XVI with the choir from Regensburger Domspatzen. (Getty)

For years, no one believed them. Now, a lawyer has uncovered new allegations of physical and sexual abuse at a choir school in Germany. 

The problem of sexual abuse that has now come to light was never spoken of.- Georg Ratzinger

The Regensburger Domspatzen is a 1,000-year-old choir school in Bavaria. It was part of the massive sex abuse scandal that dominated pope emeritus Benedict XVI's reign.

The Regensburg cathedral in Regensburg, Germany. (Diether Endlicher/AP)

On Friday, a lawyer charged with investigating decades of wrongdoing at the boarding school said at least 231 children were victims. Urlich Weber says he believes the abuse was likely even more widespread. 

The choir was led by Reverend Georg Ratzinger, the retired pope's brother. Ratzinger was in charge between 1964 and 1994. Weber says he believes the choirmaster knew about the abuse. 

Georg Ratzinger, brother of Pope Emertus Benedict XVI , sits in his house in Regensburg, Germany (dpa, Armin Weigel/AP)

Ratzinger told German newspaper Passauer Neue Presse that the abuse of boys was not talked about. "The problem of sexual abuse that has now come to light was never spoken of."

Franz Wittenbrink is a composer who attended the boarding school as a boy. He was one of the first to speak out about the abuse.

As It Happens spoke to him in 2010. He told host Carol Off of the abuse he and his school mates suffered during their time studying. "The first director of this boarding school, also a priest, he had three or four boys that he loved most. They had to come to him in the evening ... and he touched them and it was terrible sexual abuse."

Last year, the dioceses offered victims of the abuse  €2,500 each ($3,870 Cdn).

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