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Mayer charged in Spiegel that he had been raped by older pupils. Spiegel quoted him as saying that pupils were forced to have anal sex with one another in the apartment of a prefect at the church-run boarding school attached to the choir. The Regensburg diocese has refused to comment on the report.

The Vatican spokesman, speaking to Vatican Radio and Associated Press Television News, defended Benedict.

“It’s rather clear that in the last days, there have been those who have tried, with a certain aggressive persistence, in Regensburg and Munich, to look for elements to personally involve the Holy Father in the matter of abuses,” the Rev. Federico Lombardi told Vatican Radio.

“For any objective observer, it’s clear that these efforts have failed,” Lombardi said, reiterating his statement a day earlier noting the Munich diocese has insisted that Benedict wasn’t involved in the decision while archbishop there to transfer the suspected child abuser.

Lombardi told The AP that “there hasn’t been in the least bit any policy of silence.”

“The pope is a person whose stand on clarity, on transparency and whose decision to face these problems is above discussion,” Lombardi said, citing the comments by Scicluna, who works in the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, which was long headed by Benedict before his election as pontiff.

“To accuse the current pope of hiding (cases) is false and defamatory,” Scicluna said.

As Vatican cardinal in charge of the policy on sex abuse, the future pope “showed wisdom and firmness in handling these cases,” Scicluna said.

He said in the first years after the 2001 directive, most of the 3,000 cases came from the U.S., where dioceses across the nation were rocked by allegations by priests and systematic cover-ups by hierarchy and drained by hefty lawsuits by victims.

Only about 10 percent of the case dealt with “acts of true pedophilia,” Scicluna said, while 60 percent of the cases involved priests who were sexually attracted to male adolescents. Some 30 percent of cases dealt with heterosexual abuse, he said.

How the Vatican has handled the cases since the 2001 directive provides “a very important signal to all the bishops of the church to face these problems with the required seriousness, clarity, rapidity and efficiency,” Lombardi said.

The Catholic church in Switzerland has become swept up in the scandals. Swiss daily Neue Zuercher Zeitung quoted a Benedictine abbot, Martin Werlen, as saying that the Swiss bishops conference and various dioceses are investigating allegations after 60 people came forward to say they were victims of abuse by priests.

Shortly before becoming pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger denounced what he called “filth” in the priesthood, but so far hasn’t directly commented on the cases in his homeland.

He has promised to write a letter soon to faithful in Ireland about decades of systematic abuse in church-run schools, orphanages and other institutions in that predominantly Roman Catholic nation.

The Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, where Benedict served as archbishop from 1977 to 1982, says that a working group, established last month after allegations of abuse in a church-run school, would be expanded to include an external, independent legal office.

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