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German diocese investigating 4 priests, 2 nuns

Clemens Neck, spokesman of the diocese in Regensburg,

Clemens Neck, spokesman of the diocese in Regensburg, southern Germany, is seen in front of a painting showing Pope John Paul II. The Roman Catholic diocese of Regensburg in southern Germany has announced it is investigating 4 priests and 2 nuns in connection with charges of physical and sexual abuse. (March 10, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

REGENSBURG, Germany - Four priests and two nuns in the Regensburg diocese are under investigation for sexual abuse allegations, the diocese said Monday, as a wider picture began to emerge of incidents decades ago in the pope’s native Bavaria.
Diocese spokesman Clemens Neck said that since allegations first
surfaced earlier this month, the church has been pursuing the cases with the goals of achieving justice and help for the victims,
punishing the offenders and preventing future crimes.
“The work of the last 14 days has shown us that serious
wrongdoing was committed by spiritual leaders and members of the church,” Neck said at a press conference called to provide an
update on the investigation.
“We deeply regret what the spiritual leaders and church members
did to these children and youths, and we ask for forgiveness on
their behalf.”
In addition to the six now under investigation, about whom
further details were not given, Neck said there were two new
charges of sexual abuse of a minor by a man identified as Friedich
Z. who was already convicted of abuse charges in 1958, and one new charge against a Georg Z. who was convicted in 1969.
The Regensburg cases come among a spiraling child abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church in Germany, in which some 300 former students have come forward with claims of physical or sexual abuse.
Abuse scandals involving Catholic dioceses, monasteries and
other institutions have also hit several other countries, with
victims in Ireland, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Italy
all coming forward recently with allegations of abuse as well as
cover-ups.
In an unprecedented letter Saturday, Pope Benedict XVI
apologized to Ireland for the chronic child abuse within the
Catholic Church there Benedict’s message Saturday — the product of weeks of consultation with Irish bishops, who read it aloud at Masses across this predominantly Catholic nation — rebuked Ireland’s church leaders for “grave errors of judgment” in failing to observe the church’s secretive canon laws.
He also appealed to priests still harboring sins of child
molestation to confess.
“Openly acknowledge your guilt, submit yourselves to the
demands of justice, but do not despair of God’s mercy,” he wrote.
The allegations of physical abuse in Regensburg are centered
around the Etterzhausen school just outside Regensburg — considered a feeder school for the Regensburger Domspatzen boys choir, which was led for three decades by the brother of Pope Benedict XVI, Georg Ratzinger.
Ratzinger, 86, has admitted slapping pupils after he took over
the Regensburger Domspatzen boys choir in the 1964 — though such punishments were commonplace in Germany at that time. He also said he was aware of allegations of physical abuse the elementary school, and publicly apologized for doing nothing about it, but he was not aware of sexual abuse.
Neck said that of those accused of sexual abuse, one has been
linked to the Regensburger Domspatzen — an assistant teacher who later became a priest identified only as Sturmius W.
In addition to an initial allegation against him already
reported, Neck said another victim has now come forward with
accusations against the priest, who has been suspended from his
duties.
Benedict, 82, was archbishop of Munich from 1977 to 1982 when he
was brought to the Vatican to head the body responsible for
investigating abuse cases. During that time, he came under
criticism for decreeing that even the most serious abuse cases must first be investigated internally.
Neck said his diocese has three investigators working on the
case — one expert to handle accusations of sexual crimes, another
to deal with people reporting physical abuse, and an attorney to
investigate further the physical abuse cases.
He said seven people have reported incidents of sexual abuse by
six people who are still alive. He said others have reported being
abused by people who are now dead, but did not give any figures.
In all of the cases the statute of limitations for criminal
prosecution has now expired — with allegations against five of the
six dating from before the mid-1970s and the accusation against the sixth from 1984.
Still, Neck said, all information was being turned over to the
public prosecutors’ office for evaluation.
“All concrete allegations are turned over to prosecutors,
regardless of whether the statute of limitations has expired,” he
said. “That is up to prosecutors to decide.”

 


 

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