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Benedict XVI reeling from fallout of a growing priest abuse scandal in Germany that involves his brother.
VATICAN CITY — The two Ratzinger brothers have always stood together.
They were both ordained as Catholic priests the same day in the same small German town where they came of age. And they both rose up through the German hierarchy of the Catholic Church, with Joseph eventually joining the Roman Curia and elevated as Pope Benedict XVI, and his brother Georg Ratzinger named a Monsignor.
Now Georg has been implicated in a growing physical and sexual abuse scandal in Germany that dates back to the years when the two brothers served the church in their native Bavaria. There is reportedly growing concern in the Vatican that the pope himself may be implicated in this scandal.
The still-unfolding scandal in Germany is the latest in a string of disturbing sexual abuse scandals that have rocked the Catholic church globally in Boston, Ireland, Canada and Australia. It has reverberated around the world and crippled the finances of the Catholic Church in America as a result of enormous lawsuits.
The Vatican has been seen by victims' rights groups particularly in America as too dismissive of these scandals and the damage they have done to the church financially and spiritually.
But now preoccupation is mounting in the Vatican as the growing sex abuse scandal in Germany has directly touched the Pope through his brother, Ratzinger.
Senior officials in the Roman Curia are now worried, as the Italian daily La Repubblica reported on Wednesday, that the scandal will eventually reach the Pope himself and put into question whether — and how much — he knew of abuse cases during his tenure as Archbishop of Munich between 1977 and 1981.
Tension has been palpable since cases of child molestation and violence were reported in the school that trained singers for the renowned Domspatzen Choir of Regensburg, which was directed from 1964 to 1994 by Ratzinger.
In an interview with the German regional daily Neue Passauer Presse on Tuesday, Ratzinger apologized to child victims of sexual abuse at the school, while maintaining that he was unaware of the alleged incidents.
Ratzinger admitted to slapping some pupils early in his career but said that he “always had a troubled conscience about it” and “was happy when physical punishments were completely forbidden in 1980 by legislation.” In the Vatican, church officials — speaking on condition of anonymity, as is the norm — showed appreciation for the openness shown by the Pope's brother but questioned the timing and content of his admissions.