Obituary for Georg Ratzinger: God grant him

The controversial pope brother Georg Ratzinger has died. For 30 years he was head of the Regensburger Domspatzen – and tolerated a system of violence.

Priest Georg Ratzinger in 2005 Photo: image

BERLIN taz | There is a photo of Georg Ratzinger that has become almost historically relevant. It shows the later director of the world-famous Regensburger Domspatzen on June 29, 1951 in Freising Cathedral during the priestly ordination with his three years younger brother Joseph, later Pope Benedict XVI.

The two black-haired Bavarian men are festively dressed in baroque-style choir shirts and have stretched out their arms in blessing. The 27-year-old Georg, who survived the war as a Wehrmacht soldier, is beaming. His younger brother was only an anti-aircraft helper, he is concentrated and serious – and it is as if the future of the two Ratzingers is already hinted at in this black and white photo.

While Georg Ratzinger devoted his life to the cheerful muse and aspired to a musical career (in the seminary he was nicknamed “Organ Ratz”), Joseph Ratzinger became something of the deepest child prodigy of theology in Germany. After studying church music at the University of Music in Munich, Georg Ratzinger found his life’s work in 1964: he became “cathedral band master” and thus de facto head of the Regensburger Domspatzen for 30 years, which have a 1,000-year tradition.

His brother’s path led through several chairs for theology, the archbishop’s seat in Munich and the task of the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome to the highest office of the world catholic church. The ambitious siblings remained closely connected throughout their lives – until the old Pope Joseph Ratzinger visited Georg’s deathbed a few days ago in Regensburg.

Then the music stands flew

That would be a nice end to the history of the pious brothers from the Bavarian province, if the abuse scandal had not lain over both of them in the past ten years. Joseph Ratzinger, as the former Archbishop of Munich, as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (formerly: Holy Inquisition) and as Pope, can almost be accused of always knowing something about the sexual violence of priests against children and adolescents – and doing too little against it, possibly even covered them up.

Despite several investigations into the hundredfold abuse of cathedral sparrows in the post-war period, the late Georg Ratzinger could not be proven to have committed such acts or to cover them up. But one thing is clear: Georg Ratzinger, as head of the Domspatzen, tolerated a system of fear, in part sadism, or at least violence against the boys with the golden voices, for many years.

He conceded that he had slapped many of his faces if the boys were not obedient enough. The perfectionist’s choleric fits were notorious for rehearsals – music stands used to fly towards the choir. In one of his last interviews, Georg Ratzinger said that he hoped for God’s grace if he would die soon. He will have known why he needed it.




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