Aide defends Benedict’s silence on abuse cases

More allegations arise in pope’s former diocese

There is no need ‘for the Holy Father to comment personally on each case,’ papal secretary Georg Gaenswein said. There is no need ‘for the Holy Father to comment personally on each case,’ papal secretary Georg Gaenswein said.
By V. Schmitt-Roschmann
Associated Press / April 14, 2010

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BERLIN — Pope Benedict XVI’s private secretary yesterday defended the pope’s prolonged silence on sexual abuse in Germany’s Roman Catholic Church, while more old cases surfaced in Benedict’s former diocese near Munich.

A new report said about 15 monks and three lay educators had probably physically or sexually abused several hundred students at the Ettal Monastery boarding school in the decades before 1990.

The report’s author, special investigator Thomas Pfister, said he had communicated with more than 100 self-described victims, which he said was only “the tip of the iceberg.’’

“This means that many hundreds of students — the exact number cannot be specified, of course — became victims of extremely brutal abuse,’’ Pfister said in the report.

One perpetrator at Ettal abused students with “sexual perversions,’’ Pfister said in the report, which was released yesterday with names blacked out to protect the privacy of all parties.

Almost all of the other cases occurred before 1990, he said.

Pfister launched his investigation after some 20 former students of the attached boarding school came forward in February with abuse allegations.

Over the past three months, hundreds of cases of sexual and physical abuse have shaken Germany’s Catholic church. Besides the alleged cases in Ettal, at least one other — that of a pedophile priest — is said to have occurred in the Munich archdiocese where Benedict, then Joseph Ratzinger, served as archbishop from 1977-82.

Critics have mentioned that Benedict has not commented on the cases in his native country.

The pope’s private secretary, Georg Gaenswein, yesterday defended Benedict’s silence, saying that it did “not make sense, nor is it helpful, for the Holy Father to comment personally on each case.’’

In an interview with the German daily Bild, Gaenswein said each case of sexual abuse must be condemned, and “no one has done so as strongly as the Holy Father and the Catholic Church.’’

Meanwhile, the house in which the pope was born in the southern Bavarian village of Marktl am Inn was vandalized overnight yesterday with an “obscene’’ phrase spray-painted above the main door, police said. Police are searching for the person who vandalized the house.

Also yesterday, a Minnesota prosecutor appealed to the pope as she tries to get an Indian priest back to the United States to face sexual assault charges.

Roseau County Attorney Lisa Hanson mailed Benedict a letter asking him to intervene in the case of the Rev. Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul, who is charged with two counts of criminal sexual conduct for the alleged assault of a 14-year-old female parishioner while he served at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Greenbush, Minn., in late 2004.

Jeyapaul returned to India before the charges were filed in early 2007, and continues to serve in the Diocese of Ootacamund. He denies the allegations.

Material from Bloomberg News was used in this report.