WORLD Famed choir school liv­ing ‘ hell’ for boys

Townsville Bulletin - - WORLD -

MORE than 500 boys at a world- fa­mous Catholic choir school in Ger­many suf­fered sex­ual or phys­i­cal abuse in what vic­tims have likened to “prison, hell or a con­cen­tra­tion camp”, said a re­port Tues­day on one of the coun­try’s worst such scan­dals.

Many of the 547 vic­tims re­mem­bered their time at the Re­gens­burger Domspatzen (“Cathe­dral Spar­rows”) school as “the worst time of their lives, marked by fear, vi­o­lence and help­less­ness”, said lawyer Ul- rich We­ber, who was com­mis­sioned two years ago by the dio­cese to probe the cases.

The lead in­ves­ti­ga­tor crit­i­cised se­nior church fig­ures for fail­ing to do enough to pre­vent the abuses at the board­ing school in the Bavar­ian town of Re­gens­burg – among them former choir­mas­ter Ge­org Ratzinger, 93, the el­der brother of former pope Bene­dict XVI.

Mr We­ber also crit­i­cised foot- drag­ging in clear­ing up the scan­dal by Car­di­nal Ger­hard Mueller, 69, the former bishop of Re­gens­burg. The doc­u­ment pre­sented on Tues­day was Mr We­ber’s fi­nal re­port on abuses be­tween 1945 and the early 1990s at the famed cathe­dral choir with a thou­sand- year his­tory.

He said he had un­cov­ered 67 cases of sex­ual abuse and 500 cases of other phys­i­cal vi­o­lence, with some former singers hav­ing fallen vic­tim to both.

This more than dou­bled the 231 re­ported abuse cases Mr We­ber had un­cov­ered through in­ter­views by Jan­uary 2016, when he said vic­tims had spo­ken of rape, sex­ual as­saults, se­vere beat­ings and food de­pri­va­tion.

Mr We­ber, who was not able to speak with all former stu­dents, said he es­ti­mated the true num­ber of vic­tims at around 700.

He said that 49 al­leged per­pe­tra­tors had been iden­ti­fied, al­most all of them teach­ers and ed­u­ca­tors, but that they were not ex­pected to face crim­i­nal charges as the al­leged crimes took place too long ago. The re­port blamed mainly a former pre- school di­rec­tor and his pre­fect, with­out nam­ing them, for sys­tem­atic vi­o­lence that peaked in the 1960s and ’ 70s but con­tin­ued into the 1990s and aimed “to break the will of the chil­dren”.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tor pointed to a “cul­ture of si­lence” that aimed to pro­tect the rep­u­ta­tion of the choir of boys and young men who have made many record­ings and per­formed around the world.

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