Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

"You Don't Want To Believe it"

"At that moment, you begin living in another world. You don't want to believe it."
"I was always told that I was not abused, that what they did to me was my fault, because I broke the rules, I was out of line."
"They have never recognized how they demonized us and destroyed our lives."
Udo Kaiser, 58, Regensburg, Germany

"[The school had an] elaborate system of sadistic punishments combined with sexual lust."
"[The headmaster at the time] would choose two or three of us boys in the dormitories in the evenings and take them to his flat." 
"[There was red wine; the priest had masturbated with the pupils.] Everyone knew about it. I find it inexplicable that the Pope's brother Georg Ratzinger, who had been cathedral bandmaster since 1964, apparently knew nothing about it."
Franz Wittenbrink, German director and composer
The boarding school of the Regensburg Domspatzen choir.
The boarding school of the Regensburg Domspatzen choir -- dpa

"It hurts me and my soul – behind every single case is a human being, a child’s soul severely tortured and often marked for life by these acts."
"I cannot undo it and can only ask the victims for forgiveness."
"It is not up to me to pass judgement on the perpetrators because they have died. They must answer to the judgement of Christ."
Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer
Pope Benedict XVI with his brother Georg Ratzinger and Archbishop Piero Marini (R), after a concert by the Regensburger Domspatzen boys' choir at the Sistine Chapel in 2005 -- Getty Images  
It was no doubt considered a great privilege when boys as young as eight were accepted at the famed Regensburg Domspatzen ("Cathedral Sparrows") boarding school, boys whose voices were sublime and clear as bells, rising in a musical epiphany of heavenly song. At the boarding school the boys were tutored and their voices trained in sublime refinement, joined together in a choir that expressed the musical sentiment of faith and the glory of the human voice.

In 2010 the German newspaper Spiegel ran an expose based on the accusations of former Regensburger choirboys who claimed to have been abused and violated by the men who had sworn vows of chastity and given their lives to the worship of Christ, but whose vocation was divine musical expression and to whose care these boys were surrendered. The loving care and attention that they and their parents anticipated would be theirs in recognition of their extraordinary musical abilities, turned into the kind of loving care least expected.

That was in the 1950s, when one man, then a child of eight, had his introduction to the rules of his new school replete with beatings and other violent punishments. And then came his realization that something was awfully wrong when he became aware that the priest who was punishing him, beating his bare buttocks with a rod was doing something else against the back of his head. Mr. Kaiser is one of six victims scheduled to recount their experiences to representatives of the Roman Catholic Church and choir.

It was an institution of great renown and repute, but not for the maltreatment of its students, including sexual violations. But from 1964 to 1994 the school was headed by Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, brother of Pope Benedict XVI. A twelve-member commission is set to examine the history of abuse that took place with impunity against the boys of the choir. When the story first broke, Monsignor Ratzinger was quick to deny any knowledge of the abuse, musing however, that the accusations reflected "a certain animosity toward the church."

A generous mind might wish to conclude that the good Monsignor was happily oblivious to any crimes and misdemeanors perpetrated by those under his guiding hand, that the boys were without exception ecstatic to be at the Regensburg Domspatzen, grateful for the attention they were given and the opportunities to perform to great acclaim and distinction. Still, the commission comes in the wake of a report issued in January finding up to 231 cases of physical abuse from 1945 to 2014.

Among the instances of physical abuse were a dozen cases of sexual abuse. Since then, another 60 victims of physical abuse have found the courage to expose themselves to public scrutiny. As for the Monsignor, he has himself apologized for using the kind of capital punishment reflective of his annoyance at times when during his three decades of running the choir he slapped many boys, but he "was not aware that any sexual abuse was taking place at that time."

And, as far as Monsignor Ratzinger, now 91, is concerned, had that abuse taken place as claimed it was certainly unfortunate, but to pursue the issue so many decades after the fact was "insanity". This, despite that church leaders and choir authorities were aware of those abuse allegations, but chose to ignore them, and as a result no one was punished. The latest of those abuse allegations by three perpetrators took place in the late 1990s to the early 2000s.

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