The developing sex scandal shaking the Catholic Church in Germany hit close to home for Pope Benedict XVI when allegations emerged of abuse in the Regensburg boys' choir which the Pope's brother directed for 30 years.
In an interview with an Italian newspaper on Sunday, the Rev. Georg Ratzinger, 86, the Pope's older brother, said he knew nothing of abuse, and noted that he was not the head of the choir when the alleged abuse took place.
"I was not with the choir when the cases being referred to happened," Ratzinger is quoted as saying in La Repubblica. "The events being referred to…date back to 60 or more than 50 years ago."
Georg Ratzinger was the director of the Regensburg Domsplatzen choir from 1964 until 1994.
The Catholic Church in Germany has been hit with a growing sex scandal, and the latest complaint was that boys in the elite choir for the Regensburg Cathedral had been abused in the 1950s.
The bishop of the Regensburg Diocese, Monsignor Gerhard Ludwig Mueller, said in a statement published in the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano Sunday that the two cases of abuse regarding the Regensburg choir and its boarding school date back to to 1958, and "do not coincide with the period in which Maestro Prof. Georg Ratzinger was in charge (1964-1994)."
In the statement Mueller said the cases "were already public at the time, and are to be considered juridically closed."
A vice-director of the preliminary school for the prestigious Domplatzen choir, and another person associated with the choir were removed and prosecuted for their crimes at the time, Mueller said.
Georg Ratzinger told La Repubblica that he would be willing to testify on the matter if necessary.
"I would be more than ready to testify," Ratzinger told La Repubblica, "but I am unable to provide information about any punishable act because I don't have any [such information]. I never knew anything about it."
"I hope my choir is not damaged by this situation, but it is in my interest that light be shed on it," he said.
Climate of Terror in Choir?
La Repubblica asked Ratzinger if it was true, as alleged victims have said, that there was a climate of terror in those years.
"In my years there was a climate of discipline and strictness, which is obvious: we were aiming for a high musical and artistic level," Ratzinger is quoted as saying. "But there was also a climate of human comprehension, almost like a family."
The Pope also has a connection to Regensburg where as Professor Joseph Ratzinger he taught theology at the University from 1969 until 1977.
Pope Benedict XVI has not said anything publicly about the scandal, but the statement by Mueller was followed by a note from the Vatican that said "the Holy See supports the Diocese in its willingness to analyze the painful question in an open and decisive way, according to the rules of the German Bishops' conference."
Pope Benedict will be meeting with Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, the head of the German Bishops' Conference on March 12, and they will discuss the cases of sexual abuse in the German Catholic Church during their meeting, Zollitsch has said.
The Pope held a two day summit last month with bishops from Ireland to discuss a sex abuse scandal there as well.
Last month Archbishop Zollitsch apologized for sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests after over 100 cases were reported in schools across the country, according to press reports.
"I apologize to all those who have been the victims of a similar crime," Zollitsch said at the German Bishops' Conference plenary meeting on Feb. 22, according to the ANSA news agency.
In his interview with La Repubblica, Georg Ratzinger also voiced some bewilderment regarding the allegations of abuse, when asked how they might affect the church.
"I want to note that I notice a certain animosity towards the church," Ratzinger told La Repubblica. "I seem to see an intention to speak badly of the church in certain affirmations."