A new report investigating the abuse counted 500 cases of physical violence and 67 of sexual violence, committed by a total of 49 perpetrators.
BERLIN, Germany - At least 547 members of a prestigious Catholic boys’ choir in Germany run by the brother of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI were physically or sexually abused between 1945 and 1992, according to a report released Tuesday.
Allegations involving the Domspatzen choir in Regensburg, which was run for 30 years by Benedict’s elder brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, were among a spate of revelations of abuse by Catholic clergy in Germany that emerged in 2010. In 2015, lawyer Ulrich Weber was tasked with producing a report on what happened.
The report said that 547 boys at the Domspatzen’s school “with a high degree of plausibility” were victims of physical or sexual abuse, or both. It counted 500 cases of physical violence and 67 of sexual violence, committed by a total of 49 perpetrators.
At the choir’s pre-school, “violence, fear and helplessness dominated” and “violence was an everyday method,” it said.
“The whole system of education was oriented toward top musical achievements and the choir’s success,” the report said. “Alongside individual motives, institutional motives - namely, breaking the will of the children with the aim of maximum discipline and dedication - formed the basis for violence.”
The choir was led from 1964 to 1994 by the elder Ratzinger, who is now 93.
Ratzinger said in a 2010 interview with Passauer Neue Presse that he would “often give clips around the ear even though my conscience was later troubled for doing this,” but added he never injured a child or left bruises, and said he was happy when corporal punishment was banned in 1980.
Before corporal punishment was outlawed, such discipline was commonplace in Germany.
He also said he was aware of allegations of physical abuse at the elementary school and did nothing about it, but he was not aware of sexual abuse.
“I knew that the rector there was violent and would beat the boys hard, and that he would do it for no reason,” Ratzinger said.
The report faulted Ratzinger “in particular for ‘looking away’ or for failing to intervene.”
It also cited criticism by victims of the Regensburg diocese’s initial efforts to investigate past abuse. It said that the bishop at the time the allegations surfaced, Gerhard Ludwig Müller, bears “clear responsibility for the strategic, organizational and communicative weaknesses” of those efforts.
Müller, later made a cardinal, became the head of the Vatican’s doctrine office in 2012. Pope Francis recently did not renew his mandate at the beginning of this month, replacing him with Spanish Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer.
Current Bishop of Regensburg, Rudolf Voderholzer, has already announced plans to offer victims compensation of between 5,000 and 22,000 dollars each by the end of this year.
Hundreds of boys abused in choir once run by Georg Ratzinger Geir Moulson July 18, 2017 ASSOCIATED PRESS
BERLIN — For decades, a “culture of silence” pervaded a Catholic music school where the brother of a future pope directed a renowned boys’ choir, contributing to an environment in which at least 547 children were abused, a lawyer who carried out an investigation of the mistreatment said on Tuesday.
The estimate of the number of children abused was far greater than a previous figure, 231, that the lawyer gave last year.
The choir — the Regensburg Domspatzen, literally the Cathedral Sparrows — dates to the 10th century and continues to perform at Sunday Mass in Regensburg’s 16th-century Gothic cathedral. The choir’s music director from 1964 to 1994 was the Rev. Georg Ratzinger, whose younger brother, Joseph Ratzinger, reigned as Pope Benedict XVI from 2005 to 2013.
Father Ratzinger, now 93, has apologized for slapping boys during his tenure, and said he stopped administering corporal punishment when the church banned it in 1980. He has denied awareness of sexual abuse taking place, and the new investigation does not implicate him in it.
The abuse came to light in 2010, but only after intense pressure from the victims did the diocese call upon an outside lawyer, Ulrich Weber, to conduct an independent inquiry.
Over the past two years, Mr. Weber and a team of colleagues conducted interviews with victims and other former pupils and scanned archives from 1945 to 1992.
Over all, Mr. Weber evaluated 616 reports of abuse; he deemed fewer than a dozen not at all plausible. Others Mr. Weber determined to be questionable, meaning that the abuse could not be ruled out.
In the remaining cases, 547 in total, the reports of abuse were deemed plausible, based on interviews or other corroborating evidence. Of those cases, 67 are believed to have involved sexual abuse. The others involved various forms of corporal punishment, including ear-twisting and beatings with a cane.
As in other institutions in which longstanding patterns of abuse have come to light, a combination of shame, secrecy and impunity contributed to the abuses at the music school in Regensburg, which is about 70 miles northeast of Munich, in southeastern Germany.
The abuse remained taboo, discussed only among some of the victims, who felt ostracized by their fellow alumni.
The most severe abuse took place among primary-school students in the 1960s and ’70s, mostly boys 9 to 11 living away from home.
“In the three areas of school, choir, musical education and boarding school, many people actively took part in the abuse,” Mr. Weber said.
The inquiry found the abuse was perpetrated by 49 people, most of them priests, who served as teachers and administrators and performed other jobs in the school.
In the report, dozens of former students described their primary-school years as a “prison,” “hell” or “concentration camp,” he said.
“Many described this time as the darkest period of their lives, dominated by violence, fear and helplessness,” Mr. Weber said.
Survivors expressed relief at the release of the report, but one of them, Udo Kaiser, said it could not restore their stolen childhoods.
“It has been documented,” Mr. Kaiser said in a telephone interview from his home in Munich. “Everything I have been saying for the past 30 years, when no one believed me, everything I have been fighting for the past seven years is now public.”
The 440-page report did not focus on Father Ratzinger or the question of whether the priest might have turned a blind eye to the abuse, though it does contain a section focused on victims’ recollections of him.
For some, Father Ratzinger embodied a musical perfectionist who sought success above all else, while others recalled him as being quick with a slap, and having no compunction against throwing a chair or music stand into the choir.
Many recalled him picking favorites, which meant the best singers had no problems with him, while others were beaten or slapped for singing a wrong note.
When Mr. Weber started his investigation, Father Ratzinger was critical, calling it “insanity” to try to investigate how many slaps had been “doled out” in the institution associated with the choir. He did not have any immediate comment on the latest findings.
The sexual abuse ranged from “leering looks or verbal abuse, to the forced consummation of pornography, unwanted sexual touching to forced sex,” the report said.
Along with the physical and sexual abuse, many victims suffered psychological abuse and bullying from classmates who mirrored the hierarchy and from the school’s strict educational style.
“There was a feeling of permanent control, ranging from regular checks of their clothes closets, to making sure that underpants were being worn beneath their pajamas,” the report said. “The children were under pressure, regarding their academic as well as their musical achievements, in addition to fearing punishment.”
Nevertheless, some victims said that not every former student had been abused, and others had fond memories of their time at the school and their participation in the choir.
This was, the report found, in line with the culture of keeping the abuse behind closed doors, which meant that anyone who was not a victim had a hard time conceiving how it could have been carried out.
Over the years, the report found, this “split reality” led to misunderstandings and rifts among the alumni, some of whom could not fathom what had happened when the revelations began to emerge.
The Regensburg diocese has paid 450,000 euros to victims through a fund established after the abuse came to light.
The school has also moved to change its culture and instituted steps to prevent and report abuse in recent years, as well as expanding the emphasis to include not only music, but also the children’s well-being, said Roland Büchner, who now directs the choir.
“I sharply condemn this,” Mr. Büchner said on Tuesday. “It must never happen again.”
PORNOSEXUALITY 6 giugno 2017