Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Pope's Brother Knew Nothing of Regensburg Abuse Scandal

The brother of Pope Benedict, Georg Ratzinger, a priest in Regensburg, Germany has admitted to using corporal punishment during his tenure as director of the Regensburger Domspatzen, the world renowned choir of the Regensburg Cathedral in Bavaria, Germany has admitted to using corporal punishment during his tenure as the director of the world famous choir. The Daily Mail reports as follows on the revelations, which have turned out to be a side show in a much larger scandal.

The elder brother of the Pontiff made the dramatic confession after reports of abuse at the choir, as well as at several other German schools.

Today in an interview with German paper Passauer Neue Presse Father Georg said: 'I was happy with every choir practice but I have to admit sometimes I did get depressed because we didn't get the right results.

'At the very beginning I would often give clips around the ear even though my conscience was later troubled for doing so.'

Ratzinger's admissions seem trifling in comparison with allegations of sexual abuse that have been swirling around the Regensburger Domspatzen. Indeed, anyone who recalls Catholic schools of the 50's and 60's recalls a far more lax attitude to corporal punishment. It would be fair to say that students today fear of each other more today than students forty years ago feared their teachers.

According to the German Spiegel magazine, a number of former choir members have come forward with allegations of systematic sexual abuse by the director of the boarding school that was set up for the members of the choir. Der Spiegel reports as follows on the latest allegations.

The abuse scandal at the Regensburger omspatzen choir is bigger than had been thought so far. Therapists in and around Munich treated several former choirboys who were traumatized by sexual and other physical abuse. One man affected told SPIEGEL about cruel rituals in the Etterzhausen boarding school, a preparatory school for younger pupils from which the choir draws its recruits.

He said that at the end of the 1950s the headmaster of the school, a Catholic priest, had dealt out hard physical punishments. He had often practiced what was called "naked beatings" in his private rooms, where boys aged eight or nine had to undress and were beaten by hand. In some cases, the victim said, penetration took place."

Those who were in the Regensburg Choir school at the time of the reported abuse express disbelief that Georg Ratzinger was totally unaware of the sexual abuse that was going on during his time there. While no one has accused him of anything more than hitting, those who were abused claim that the sordid episodes were widely known within the school.

The story is unfolding in the larger context of an inquiry into sexual abuse in Catholic schools in Germany. Der Spiegel reports as follows on the less than diligent response of the Catholic Church in Germany to the allegations.

"For years, Jörg D. was plagued by feelings of shame, insecurity and rage. Finally, on Sept. 17, 2009, he sent the pope a four-page letter describing his plight. "I beg you for help, in whatever form possible," he wrote.

But Benedict XVI remained silent. To this day, Jörg D., now 25, has not received a response, "not even a two-liner, nothing, nothing at all.

Franz-Josef Bode, the bishop of the city of Osnabrück in northwestern Germany, hasn't been much help either. He advised D., a victim of abuse, to "forgive and forget."

In fact, Bishop Bode wants all the 14 victims, who at the time were altar boys and children preparing to receive their first communion, to forgive and forget. Over the course of several years, ending in 1995, they were sexually abused a total of 227 times by their priest in a village near the Dutch border. The priest involved, Father Alois B., got off lightly, with only a probation sentence.

"The church was more concerned about the offenders than the victims," says Jörg D. "It provided them with therapy, stays in health resorts, new apartments or new positions, and it assiduously wiped away their old tracks. The abused children were left to fend for themselves."

In any faith, the aura of divine authority that goes with clergy can be an intimidating weapon in the hands of a sick individual willing to use it. Children who are away from home or who are from unstable backgrounds are particularly vulnerable. If you combine the aura of divine authority with the authoritarian regimen of a school, that can be a very dangerous combination. Throw in priestly celibacy and a government that gives the schools free rein and you have a recipe for disaster. Sex abuse has happened in schools of all religions and religious denominations, from the Jehovahs Witnesses to the Amish, from Orthodox Jews to public schools across the country.

Putting the phenomenon of Catholic School sex scandals in a larger context only makes it more disturbing. It turns out that students in public schools are at greater risk of sexual molestation than children in parochial schools. Newsmax reports as follows.

Now, on the heels of the Catholic abuse scandal comes another of historic proportions one that has the potential to be much greater and far-reaching. According to a draft report commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education, in compliance with the 2002 "No Child Left Behind" act signed into law by President Bush, between 6 percent and 10 percent of public school children across the country have been sexually abused or harassed by school employees and teachers.

Charol Shakeshaft, the Hofstra University scholar who prepared the report, said the number of abuse cases which range from unwanted sexual comments to rape could be much higher.

Among the incidents cited in the Newsmax article, the following two items rose well above the level of anecdotal evidence.

"Also in Washington, state officials say 159 coaches of girls sports have been fired or reprimanded over the last decade for sexual misconduct."

"An investigation found more than 60 instances in the last four years of Texas high school and middle school coaches losing jobs as a result of allegations of sexual misconduct.

Other experts using different methods came up with lower figures. Education Week relied six years earlier on news reports. Nan Stein of Wellesley College said that she believed that several hundred cases occurred annually. It is generally agreed that the numbers are not statistically insignificant.

Whether it occurs in religious schools or public schools, children must be protected. Correcting the systemic problems that make abuse even thinkable in academic surroundings will be task that will differ from one school system to another. Germany's Catholic schools certainly bear little resemblance to the New York City public schools, yet both have house cleaning and soul searching to do. Each crime has its own underlying psychology. And each institution has to correct its blind spots and weaknesses.

Sexual abuse can create a multitude of psychological problems further down the line. Parents whose children have left the faith in which they are raised find out too often that molestation preceded a loss of religious faith and practice. Viewed in this light, cleaning up the problem is ultimately strengthening the well being of faith communities as well.

The German sex abuse scandals have implications that go beyond Germany's borders. Similar stories happen in America as well. Every crime or crime spree should be studied in order that it not be repeated and so the public can be protected . The story of the Regensburg Cathedral school should be no different. Sphere: Related Content

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