The Regensburger Domspatzen is the oldest boys’ choir in the world, having been founded in 976 (not a typo). It’s the official choir for Regensburg Cathedral in the German state of Bavaria, and the kids in it attend a special boarding school with an emphasis on music. Until 1994, the choir was run by Georg Ratzinger, the brother of the former pope.
The report said 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 people.
At the choir’s preschool, “violence, fear and helplessness dominated” and “violence was an everyday method,” it said.
Ratzinger said he hit the boys, but he wasn’t aware of any sexual abuse. (I guess it runs in the family.)
Since that time, there’s been a lot of legal wrangling over how to deal with the abuse, leading to 376 victims being paid a total of 3.785 million euros as compensation (so far).
Two studies were also commissioned by the Catholic Church to dig into what happened and if the abuse could’ve been prevented. Those studies have now been released and their contents are as damning as the original claims.
One of the studies says that the controlled nature of the school meant there was a lot of power held by a few leaders, and virtually no oversight from the outside. That’s a recipe for disaster. Furthermore, the other study found that physical violence was just a part of life for kids who attended the school.
According to a rough translation from German publication Deutsche Welle:
“Many have had a responsibility and no one has done justice to it,” says [Martin] Rettenberger [of the Criminological Center (Krimz) in Wiesbaden]. There would have been many reasons for this. “Violence and abuse formed part of everyday educational practice,” found historians at the University of Regensburg in the second study.
“Added to this was the high prestige of the Domspatzen, the appreciation of the clergy, whose authority you hardly doubted,” explains the historian Bernhard Löffler. Even some parents would have thought accordingly — and not necessarily believed the descriptions of their sons. However, many children had left school, sometimes more than 70 percent of a year. If an offense ever became public, according to the scientists, they tried to settle everything silently. “As long as possible, was appeased and looked away, if ever talked, then always with much understanding for the co-priest or co-prefect,” said [historian Bernhard] Löffler.
It’s the same old story. The abuse occurs within a closed system, and the second it threatens to go public, the aim is to settle everything internally. No one ever learns about the abuse, then, until it’s too late. It becomes so commonplace at the school that even the victims don’t realize they’re suffering.
What happened in the boys’ choir is very similar to the kind of abuse that we know occurred in the Catholic Church writ large. The Church leaders, as usual, allowed the abuse to occur and did nothing to prevent it. And the Church was so insulated from the outside world that third parties couldn’t observe what was happening themselves.
No wonder no alarms were sounded for decades.
(Screenshot via YouTube. Thanks to Tom for the link)