At least 547 boys in one of Germany’s most well-known Catholic choir school were physically or sexually abused between 1945 and 2015, an investigation revealed.
Of the 547 instances of abuse deemed plausible in the 440-page report by investigator and attorney Ulrich Weber, 67 involved sexual abuse. The others involved corporal punishment, such as ear-twisting and beatings with physical objects, such as canes.
Nine officials were found to be sexually abusive at the Regensburger Domspatzen, or “cathedral sparrows,” choir school, out of a total of 49 who were implicated in the report. But there were never repercussions due to the Catholic Church’s “culture of silence,” Weber said.
The acts of sexual abuse ranged from “leering looks or verbal abuse, to the forced consummation of pornography, unwanted sexual touching to forced sex,” the report said.
Weber said many victims said the school was like “a prison, hell and a concentration camp.”
“Many described this time as the darkest period of their lives, dominated by violence, fear and helplessness,” Weber said.
Udo Kaiser, a victim documented in the report, told The New York Times that the report’s release offered some relief, but the experience stole a great deal from his childhood.
“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,” Kaiser said.
The school was run by Georg Ratzinger, the 93-year-old brother of former Pope Benedict between 1964 and 1994, when much of the abuse documented in the report took place. Ratzinger previously admitted to allowing physical abuse to occur at the school, but denied knowledge of sexual abuse during his time at the helm.
“These things were never discussed,” Ratzinger said during a 2010 interview when allegations at the school were coming to light. “The problem of sexual abuse that has now come to light was never spoken of.”
Ratzinger also asked for forgiveness for his decades of inaction.
Roland Büchner, the current leader of the school, condemned the findings in the report.
“It must never happen again,” he said.
But the diocese members in charge of the choir have yet to make an official position on the findings. They have, however, set up a fund to pay victims between $5,800 and $23,000, reported Deutsch Welle.
By Ray Downs