More Abuse Allegations Anger Germany's Catholics Since the first media reports emerged in January, hundreds of Germans have come forward to say they were physically or sexually abused by priests. The victims say their complaints were dismissed or ignored by the church hierarchy. The Vatican says Pope Benedict, who was archbishop of Munich when some of the cases occurred, was not involved in the cover-up. Reporter Thomas Marzahl talks with Linda Wertheimer about the allegations.
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More Abuse Allegations Anger Germany's Catholics

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More Abuse Allegations Anger Germany's Catholics

More Abuse Allegations Anger Germany's Catholics

More Abuse Allegations Anger Germany's Catholics

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/124684707/124684769" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Since the first media reports emerged in January, hundreds of Germans have come forward to say they were physically or sexually abused by priests. The victims say their complaints were dismissed or ignored by the church hierarchy. The Vatican says Pope Benedict, who was archbishop of Munich when some of the cases occurred, was not involved in the cover-up. Reporter Thomas Marzahl talks with Linda Wertheimer about the allegations.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer. New allegations of child abuse against Catholic clerics in Germany are threatening to engulf the church there. Hundreds of people have come forward to say they were physically or sexually abused by priests or monks.

As in the previous scandals in the U.S. and Ireland, the victims say their complaints were dismissed or ignored by the church hierarchy in Germany, which included Pope Benedict, who was archbishop of Munich for part of that time. Reporter Thomas Marzahl joins us from Berlin.

Thomas, welcome.

Mr. THOMAS MARZAHL (Reporter): Good morning, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: When did these allegations begin to emerge?

Mr. MARZAHL: They first surfaced in late January when Der Spiegel, which is Germany's most prominent weekly news magazine, put out allegations from victims that dated back to the '50s, of sexual and physical abuse going on at a school here, outside Berlin.

WERTHEIMER: And what do the victims say happened to them?

Mr. MARZAHL: The victims said that there had been sexual and physical abuse by priests at a boarding school there. And then gradually after that, the revelations started to spread across Germany, and other victims came forward with allegations of abuse over a period of decades.

WERTHEIMER: Well, they say they brought these complaints to the attention of church authorities?

Mr. MARZAHL: It's somewhat unclear when they brought these complaints to the attention of church authorities. But it is clear that - from the anger that some of these victims are expressing, that they feel like the church has ignored their issues and has tried to put a wall of silence over the matter.

WERTHEIMER: Now, Pope Benedict was a member of the church hierarchy in Germany for some of that time. Does any of this come close to including Pope Benedict?

Mr. MARZAHL: The allegations have definitely come close to the Vatican because Pope Benedict was the archbishop of Munich at the time, back in the 1980s, when a priest who had allegedly committed child sexual abuse was reassigned to this diocese in Munich and was ordered to undergo therapy, and then was immediately allowed to resume pastoral duties.

The then-archbishop, Cardinal Ratzinger, who is now Pope Benedict, then left Munich. And the priest was subsequently, in 1986, convicted of sexual abuse and actually ordered jailed, and ordered to pay a fine.

That priest is still working to this day, in a community in upper Bavaria. And in fact, he was supposed to celebrate Mass yesterday in Bavaria, and was substituted on short notice because these revelations of what he had done came out in a German newspaper on Friday.

WERTHEIMER: Thomas, isn't there also a connection to the pope's brother?

Mr. MARZAHL: There is because the pope's brother was the head of the Regensburger´┐ŻDomspatzen, a renowned boys' choir in southern Germany, for many years. A lot of abuse allegations have emerged, just over the course of the last week or 10 days. He, himself, says that he was not aware of what occurred there.

However, over the weekend, again allegations emerged that some of these abuses may have occurred well into the '90s. And thus, a lot of people are saying it's hard to believe that he would not have at least known of what was going on within the boys' choir.

WERTHEIMER: What about the Vatican? What about the German church? What are they doing?

Mr. MARZAHL: The top German Catholic bishop was in Rome on Friday for a meeting with the pope. And the pope said that he had been deeply moved by hearing about these allegations. But Pope Benedict has not publicly spoken out about the matter.

Notably, yesterday during Mass in Vatican City, he did not even mention the word abuse. And quite a few Catholic officials, politicians and Catholic lay people are increasingly becoming angry with the church for at least not addressing the matter. What's going on behind the scenes is, of course, another matter.

WERTHEIMER: Thomas Marzahl, reporting from Berlin.

Thomas, thank you very much.

Mr. MARZAHL: Thank you.

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