In the interview published today, Georg Ratzinger, who led the sparrows from 1964 to 1994, appeared to signal that knew physical punishments were meted out to his pupils but he had been unaware of how brutal the beatings often were.
"Pupils told me on concert trips about what went on,” he said. “But it didn't dawn on me from their stories that I should do something. I was not aware of the extent of these brutal methods.”
He added: “If I had known about the excess of force he was using, I would have said something ... I ask the victims for forgiveness."
The 86-year-old said he had no indication that pupils were being sexually abused and added that staff had never talked about it. Although an admission from the Pope’s brother that he hit pupils may shock many today, at the time such beatings were perfectly legal in Germany which only banned corporal punishment in 1980.
But the allegations emanating out of Regensburg are awkward for the Vatican because the Pope and his brother spent so much of their careers there. Survivor groups have now called on the pontiff to talk about whether he ever encountered abuse accusations when he was a bishop of Munich and Freising during the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The German government has also criticised the Catholic Church for maintaining a “wall of silence” which has made it difficult for prosecutors to access information about abuse.
It is starting to be painfully obvious that the cardinals who thought that Joseph Ratzinger was the safest choice to head the Vatican made a mistake and are probably praying with ferocity and intensity that he dies sooner rather than later.