Vienna Boys Choir admits possible sexual abuses
VIENNA (Reuters) - The Vienna Boys' Choir said on Friday it was possible that members of the historic vocal ensemble were sexually abused by supervisors in the past.
The choir's statement followed complaints in an Austrian newspaper by two now grown-up former members and appeared to widen a sexual misconduct scandal in Austria that also included child abuse by a Catholic priests.
The Vienna Boys' Choir is not affiliated with the church but is an Austrian cultural icon. Founded in 1498 its 100 choristers aged between 10 and 14 give about 300 international performances a year, living in dormitories while away from their families.
"The Boys' Choir cannot make concrete comments about allegations that go back decades," it said. "But even if we cannot deal in detail with this matter, we are aware that cases of abuses could have taken place in the past."
To help identify culprits, the choir appealed to former choristers, including the pair quoted anonymously in the Vienna newspaper Der Standard, to get in touch and provide names, dates and other relevant details.
The choir would then search archives for evidence to allow justice to be done.
The choir's statement said it had taken steps to prevent abuse "decades ago." A spokeswoman declined to comment when asked whether this meant it had had evidence of abuse.
"We cannot undo these incidents. But we have already drawn the consequences decades ago. All educators tasked with taking care of the children must have appropriate pedagogical training," the statement said.
Der Standard quoted a 33-year-old ex-chorister who lives in Berlin as saying he and others were pressured to wash their genitals thoroughly in the shower while supervisors watched.
He was quoted as saying that an older chorister once forced him to perform oral sex.
The newspaper quoted another member, now a 51-year-old psychologist living in Munich, as saying that when he sang with the group between 1966 and 1970, a choirmaster kept his hand on his thigh for an hour during a bus tour.
There have been daily reports of child sexual abuse in Austrian Catholic institutions since the arch-abbot of Salzburg's St Peter's monastery quit Monday after admitting to sexually abusing a boy 40 years ago.
Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn has called for the Church openly to discuss taboo issues such as celibacy, priestly training and more liberal social attitudes to sex. Abuse scandals have recently emerged in several European countries.
(Reporting by Boris Groendahl and Alexandra Zawadil, writing by Mark Heinrich; editing by Robin Pomeroy)
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