A report confirms the physical and sexual abuse of over 500 children at a prestigious choir school in Bavaria, Germany.
Commissioned by the diocese of Regensburg, a report has been published that states 547 children at the all-male boarding school in the Bavarian town were abused, either physically or sexually, between the years 1945 and 1992.
The report also states that all those involved must take responsibility, explicitly mentioning Georg Ratzinger, brother of the Pope emeritus and choir master at the school, and Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, who was bishop of Regensburg before becoming prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith in the Vatican in 2007.
Ulrich Weber, the lawyer commissioned by the diocese in 2015, said in a press conference yesterday that for many of the students at the choir school, the period they were there represented “the worst time of their lives, marked by fear, violence and helplessness."
The report makes explicit the practices that were in place at the choir school.
Weber said that around 500 of the choir school’s students had been abused physically, as a disciplinary method.
Some of the ex-students interviewed by Weber explained that “anyone who coughed during roll call was immediately beaten”.
Further reports said: “bed-wetters were not allowed to drink in the evenings, even if it was very hot. They had to eat their supper at a separate table.” And in one case, a student said he was so thirsty “I drank my own urine.”
“In the school,” the report states, “senses of fear and impotence dominated” and “violence was a method that was applied on a daily basis” as it was thought to guarantee “maximum results” and “absolute discipline.”
However, along with violence being used for disciplinary ends, Weber’s report speaks of around 60 cases of sexual abuse on students between the ages of 7 and 10.
Speculation has surrounded the school for some time now, though, in the absence of any authoritative confirmation, the testimonies of victims were at times seen as mere hearsay.
Aside from the huge number of children abused (Weber stipulates this figure could be closer to 700 if all the victims were to come out), the Regensburg choir school case is also significant for the figures involved.
Fr Georg Ratzinger, the brother of former pope Joseph Ratzinger, was the choir’s conductor from 1964 to 1994.
Weber mentions Ratzinger in his report, claiming that he shared “co-responsibility” for the abuses that took place during his tenure.
“He pretended to not see” what happened, the report states, and “did not intervene despite knowing” what had been taking place.
Similarly, Cardinal Müller, a figure close to the Pope emeritus whilst prefect of the CDF, has also been criticised in the report for his irresponsiveness in relation to the accusations of the victims.
CAPTION: Benedict XVI's brother, Fr. Georg Ratzinger at the Vatican on April 16, 2007