9 Mar 2010

Vatican 'silence' criticised over German abuse

3:13 pm on 9 March 2010

The German justice minister has criticised the Vatican for what she calls a "wall of silence" on abuse allegations.

Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger says Vatican secrecy rules are complicating investigations of the cases, the BBC reports.

Allegations of sexual abuse are being investigated in 18 of Germany's 27 Catholic dioceses.

Ms Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger referred to a Vatican rule dating to 2001 that requires abuse cases to be investigated internally and expressed dismay at the fact that prosecutors were not called in as soon as possible.

Allegations of abuse in Germany first emerged in January at the Jesuit-run Canisius College in Berlin. Former pupils at other schools have subsequently come forward alleging sexual abuse by teachers.

Last week, the Regensburg Diocese said a former singer in a church choir that was run by Pope Benedict's brother, the Reverend Georg Ratzinger, from 1964-1993, had alleged there was abuse there in the early 1960s.

Father Ratzinger has been quoted as saying the allegations dated from before his tenure.