Image: Stefan Dartmann, Klaus Mertes, Gabriele Huedepohl
Franka Bruns  /  AP
From left: Stefan Dartmann, chairman of the Jesuit in Germany, and Klaus Mertes, principal of the Canisius-Kolleg, participate in a news conference in Berlin on Monday. More students have come forward to report sexual abuse cases by Fathers Peter Riedel and Wolfgang Stab, who taught at  Berlin's private Catholic Canisius Kolleg school in the 1970s and 1980s.
updated 2/1/2010 3:00:30 PM ET 2010-02-01T20:00:30

At least 20 students were sexually abused by two Jesuit priests who taught them at one of Germany's most prestigious high schools, its director said Monday.

That is much higher than the seven sexual abuse cases by the two priests in the 1970s and 1980s that Berlin's private Catholic Canisius Kolleg had acknowledged last month.

Father Stefan Dartmann, the head of the Jesuit order of Germany, also said the two priests continued to sexually abuse boys and girls after being transferred from Canisius Kollege to other Catholic schools and youth institutions in Germany, Mexico, Chile and Spain.

"I am ashamed that nothing was done at the time," Dartmann said at a news conference at Canisius Kolleg. "I also apologize that those responsible at the order at the time did not ... react the way it would have been necessary."

Canisius Kolleg is one of Germany's pre-eminent schools, the alma mater of many politicians, businesspeople and scientists. The scandal also has become big news in Germany because this country has not seen the kind of major sexual abuse scandals involving the Roman Catholic church that the United States and Ireland have.

First cases reported last week
Father Klaus Mertes, the director of Canisius Kolleg, told Monday's news conference that after he sent 500 letters to alumni of the school last month, more students reported suffering sexual abuse by Fathers Peter Riedel and Wolfgang Stab, who taught at the school in the 1970s and 1980s. Mertes had reported the first seven abuse cases last week.

Dartmann conceded that the Jesuit order of Germany had evidence of the sexual abuse cases since 1981, but had never informed parents, students or authorities. Such cases can no longer be prosecuted in Germany because of its statute of limitations, he said.

While Riedel forced his students to masturbate, Stab exercised "excessive corporal rituals" in a sexual context, said Dartmann.

Both men later left the order and Stab has admitted the sexual abuse. He now lives in Chile and has sent a letter to some of the victims to apologize.

Riedel was attacked by one of his former victims in 1986, who then subsequently killed himself, the Berliner Morgenpost newspaper said. Riedel has not admitted the sexual abuse.

All the victims at Canisius school in Berlin were male and most were about 13 when the abuse began, Mertes said. They are around 40 now. Some of the later victims also include girls, according to Dartmann.

The Jesuit order has assigned an independent counselor for sexual abuse victims to investigate all allegations and present a report on the findings in two weeks.

Canisius Kolleg was founded as an all-boys school and turned coed in the late 1970s.

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