August 1, 2017, Tuesday
…to Reach the Emeritus Pope
“The Lord does not abandon His Church, even when the boat has taken on so much water as to be on the verge of capsizing.” —Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, in remarks he prepared in Rome for the July 15 funeral in Cologne, Germany, of his old friend Cardinal Joachim Meisner, who died on July 5. The remarks were read by Archbishop Georg Gaenswein in Cologne; Emeritus Pope Benedict did not attend the funeral but remained in the Vatican where he has lived since his resignation in 2013
“Most of his choir boys describe (Georg) Ratzinger with lots of positive terms, namely as ‘sincere, competent and understanding,’ ‘friendly, yes, full of love,’ ‘very warm,’ ‘very popular,’ ‘strict, fair but nevertheless good-natured’ and ‘appreciated by all children.'” —Dr. Michael Hesemann, German researcher and writer, on the allegations of child abuse insinuated against Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, 93, the older bother of Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, 90, in a German report made public on July 18 in Germany, which found that 547 choirboys of the Regensburg Boys’ Choir, which Georg Ratzinger directed from 1964 to 1994 (from the time he was 40 until the time he was 70) had suffered from some form of abuse from one of their many choirmasters (not Georg Ratzinger, but his colleagues or subordinates) between the 1950s and 1990s
And now we come to one of the most disturbing stories of this summer, with regard to the leadership of the Church.
It is important to understand that this story involves serious allegations against an old man (he is still alive at the age of 93), allegations that, because they concern the physical and sexual abuse of children, must be taken with the utmost seriousness — even if all the evidence seems to show that the allegations are false.
Right at the outset, it must be noted that this summer has been the “summer of allegations and leavings” as a number of high-ranking Vatican and Church officials have left Rome (or the world), or may be about to leave Rome, for one reason or another:
— the chief Holy See accountant, Italian Libero Milone, 68 (link);
— the Pope’s “finance czar,” Australian Cardinal George Pell, 76 (link);
— the chief doctrinal officer Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, 69 (link);
— the friend of Emeritus Pope Benedict Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne, who died on July 5 at the age of 83 (link);
— and the “chief legislator” of the Church, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, 79, whose secretary was hospitalized for drug-induced intoxication after a party in the Palace of the Holy Office in an apartment Coccopalmerio helped him to obtain, though the secretary was neither a cardinal nor an archbishop; he may soon be leaving his post because he is nearing age 80 (link).
It is in this context that serious charges emerged on July 18 against the older brother of Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, 90: Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, 93.
In reporting this story there are at least two complicating factors.
First, the problem of giving credibility to allegations by repeating them.
That is, once any allegations are made, even false ones — as so often in human affairs — something always seems to “stick.” A certain harm to a man’s reputation is done even if the allegations are proven false, because the human mind connects the allegations to the man accused regardless of their truth or falsity.
Second, any allegation involving child abuse, and especially allegations involving child sexual abuse, must be taken very seriously. There have been too many instances where abuse has occurred, and the victims have not been heard, or believed, and every such instance is evil, and a profound miscarriage of justice.
For these and other reasons, I hesitated to write about this matter. I did not wish to add anything to the perpetuation of false allegations against a good man. Nor did I wish to write anything that downplayed the profound seriousness of any reports of physical and sexual abuse of children.
However, the evidence of the innocence of Georg Ratzinger in this case is strong. (I reproduce that evidence below, especially in the interviews with German historian Dr. Michael Hesemann and German Catholic activist, Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis. I note that both are long-time personal friends of the Ratzinger brothers.)
The evidence seems to prove that none of the boys who reported acts of abuse ever actually allege that Georg Ratzinger himself was responsible for the abuse.
Rather, the boys (now men) say that other teachers were responsible.
(Details on all this below.)
Since the allegations against Father Ratzinger have been made publicly, worldwide, silence might lead to the impression that the allegations are true. Better, then, to face the allegations and examine them.
What is the result? The evidence seems to point to a single conclusion: that, though it is insinuated strongly, it is not true that Father Georg Ratzinger was guilty of child abuse.
What is the central allegation?
It is being alleged that Father Georg Ratzinger, 93, the older brother of Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, 90, was guilty of “child abuse” — or was not sufficiently concerned and careful about the health and safety of his boys to notice and stop such abuse by others — during the 30 years when he was director of the world-famous Regensburg Boys’ Choir in Regensburg, Germany, from 1964 to 1994, from the time he was 40 to the time he was 70. It is also being alleged that Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, for the last five years the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — the highest doctrinal office in the Church after the Pope himself — did not do enough to investigate the abuse when he was the bishop of Regensburg.
This allegation, of course, reflects on the reputation and moral authority of Georg’s younger brother, Joseph Ratzinger, who was elected as Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, and who resigned the papacy in 2013, more than four years ago. The younger Ratzinger is now 90 years old. Also, Mueller is the general editor of the collected works of Ratzinger, so he too is very closely linked to the former Pope.
The story was first reported in 2010, but re-exploded precisely on July 18, three days after the July 15 funeral in Cologne, Germany, of Cardinal Meisner, where some remarks in memory of Meisner written by Emeritus Pope Benedict were read by Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, the personal secretary of the Emeritus Pope. (At the center of those remarks is the sentence cited at the opening of this letter above.)
One of the first reports was this newsflash from the Italian news agency ANSA (link):
(ANSA) – Berlin, July 18 – Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s brother Georg Ratzinger knew about sex abuse at Regensburg choir but “pretended not to see and did not intervene even though he knew,” lawyer Ulrich Weber said in a report on the alleged historical abuse of 547 boys Tuesday. It had earlier been reported that the former pope’s brother, 93, had directed the choir in a different period from when the abuse took place.
Let’s examine this report.
There are the essential elements (and note how they all appear in order of importance in this very compressed two-sentence flash):
(1) Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s
(3) Georg Ratzinger
(4) knew about sex abuse at Regensburg choir
(5) but “pretended not to see and did not intervene even though he knew”
(6) lawyer Ulrich Weber
(7) said in a report on the alleged historical abuse of 547 boys
(8) Tuesday [July 18, 2017].
(9) It had earlier been reported that
(10) the former pope’s
(11) brother, 93,
(12) had directed the choir
(13) in a different period from when the abuse took place.
Is it sufficiently clear how this “news” is being presented?
The first subject is not Georg Ratzinger, but… Pope Benedict XVI.
One must conclude that he is the real target of this story — there he is, right at the beginning.
The allegation is made without any qualification (“Georg Ratzinger knew” and he “pretended not to see.”)
But this allegation is in no way proven. It is simply asserted. Is it true that Georg Ratzinger knew? We will later discover that Georg Ratzinger tells us that he never knew. He denies this affirmation, which is stated as fact.
Ratzinger acknowledged in a 2010 interview with Passauer Neue Presse that he had sometimes hit or slapped unruly choir boys. He acknowledged that he would “often give clips around the ear even though my conscience was later troubled for doing this.” But he added that he never injured a child or left bruises. He said he was happy when corporal punishment was banned in 1980. Before corporal punishment was outlawed, such discipline was commonplace in Germany.
The elder Ratzinger also said he was aware of allegations of physical abuse at the elementary school and did nothing about it. But he was not aware of sexual abuse, he said.
“I knew that the rector there was violent and would beat the boys hard,” Georg Ratzinger said.
The report faulted Georg Ratzinger “in particular for ‘looking away’ or for failing to intervene.”
It also cited criticism by victims of the Regensburg diocese’s initial efforts to investigate past abuse. It said that the bishop at the time the allegations surfaced, Gerhard Ludwig Müller, bears “clear responsibility for the strategic, organizational and communicative weaknesses” of those efforts.
These allegations are made by a German lawyer, Ulrich Weber.
Weber makes the allegations “in a report on the alleged historical abuse of 547 boys.” (So the newsflash rightly tells us that the abuse is “alleged,” not proven.)
The number of boys, 547, is striking.
Was the Regensburg boys choir simply “hell” for hundred and hundreds of boys over several decades? It seems so, from this report.
But other reports suggest that many of the boys who were in the choir enjoyed their experience and respected their choir director, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger. (See the interviews below.)
Many newspaper accounts quickly followed. Typical was one posted on the Crux website, a Catholic site supported by money from the American Knights of Columbus.
The headline is:
Hundreds of boys abused in choir once run by Georg Ratzinger
The author of the piece is Geir Moulson of the Associated Press, and it is dated July 18, 2017.
Here is the beginning of this article (link):
BERLIN, Germany – At least 547 members of a prestigious Catholic boys’ choir in Germany run by the brother of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI were physically or sexually abused between 1945 and 1992, according to a report released Tuesday.
Allegations involving the Domspatzen choir in Regensburg, which was run for 30 years by Benedict’s elder brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, were among a spate of revelations of abuse by Catholic clergy in Germany that emerged in 2010. In 2015, lawyer Ulrich Weber was tasked with producing a report on what happened.
The report said that 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 perpetrators.
At the choir’s pre-school, “violence, fear and helplessness dominated” and “violence was an everyday method,” it said.
“The whole system of education was oriented toward top musical achievements and the choir’s success,” the report said. “Alongside individual motives, institutional motives — namely, breaking the will of the children with the aim of maximum discipline and dedication — formed the basis for violence.”
The report’s authors said that they checked the plausibility of 591 potential victims’ cases.
The choir was led from 1964 to 1994 by the elder Ratzinger, who is now 93…
[End of citation of Crux article]
From these reports, it seems clear that something was terribly wrong with the way that the Regensburg boys’ choir was run. But what was the full truth of the situation?
At the same time, the appearance of this report on July 18, just after the remarks of Emeritus Pope Benedict were read at the funeral of Cardinal Meisner in Cologne on July 15, struck a number of observers as odd. Was the timing of the appearance of this report more than coincidence?
Andrea Tornielli, editor of the website Vatican Insider, and a journalist who is generally perceived to be “close” to Pope Francis, addressed the timing of the July 18 allegations in an article on July 19.
Tornielli’s main point is to argue that all “conspiracy theories” which postulate that the appearance of the allegations against Georg Ratzinger on the 18th was somehow related to, or in response to, the remarks of Emeritus Pope Benedict on July 15, are ridiculous and “exploitative.”
Here is Tornielli’s interesting article (link):
From Joseph to Georg, instrumentalization of the Ratzinger brothers
[My editorial note: It might be better to translate “instrumentalization” as “exploitation.” Tornielli’s meaning is that someone is “exploiting” the words and actions of the two brothers in an “anti-Pope Francis” strategy.]
First the Pope emeritus’ message for Meisner’s funerals, then the news of the abuses of the Regensburg children. Words and context no longer matter, what counts is to use them to attack the adversary
By Andrea Tornielli for La Stampa/Vatican Insider
July 19, 2017
“The Pope Emeritus’ words have been deliberately exploited; with that sentence [Note: the sentence that is cited above at the beginning of this letter] he [Emeritus Pope Benedict] did not allude to anything precise, he was talking about the present and past situation of the Church as a boat that is not sailing in calm waters. Even Francis says it. I understand that this image may give rise to allusions or throw off track, but behind those words there is no attack.”
So spoke Monsignor Georg Gänswein, Prefect of the Pontifical House and Secretary of Benedict XVI, interviewed by the daily newspaper Il Giornale, in an attempt to stem the controversy raised by the Pope emeritus’ message sent for the funeral of Cardinal Joachim Meisner, who died in the past few days.
In that message written in memory of his friend, Joseph Ratzinger wrote, “What moved me all the more was that, in this last period of his life, Cardinal Meisner learned to let go and to live out of a deep conviction that the Lord does not abandon His Church, even when the boat has taken on so much water as to be on the verge of capsizing.”
Words that were immediately interpreted as an attack on his successor Pope Francis.
The boat in a stormy sea, and the Lord who seems to sleep instead of guiding it, is a reference that goes through 2,000 years of Church history.
The Gospel episode is that told by Mark (4, 35-41): terrified disciples are on a boat in the stormy sea, and Jesus, who is with them, sleeps deeply in the stern. The disciples awaken him and almost reproach him for his calm attitude. He orders the sea and the wind to be quiet and still, and the wind immediately dies down and it is completely calm. The purpose of the miracle is not really about showing off the power of the Son of God but rather to arouse faith in his disciples, by reproaching them for having been afraid despite their master being on the boat with them.
On this topic, we may recall Paul VI’s words addressed to the members of the Lombard Seminary in 1968, just a few months after the publication of the encyclical Humanae vitae, which represented the moment of maximum isolation for Pope Montini, who at the time was repeatedly attacked by his own friends.
He [Pope Paul VI] said, “Many expect from the Pope dramatic gestures, energetic and decisive interventions. The Pope does not deem that he should follow any line but that of confidence in Jesus Christ, to whom he has entrusted his Church more than to anyone else. It is for Him to calm the tempest. How many times did the Master repeat: ‘Confidite in Deum. Creditis in Deum, et in me credite!‘ (‘Trust in God. You believe in God, believe also in me!’) The Pope will be the first to execute this command of the Lord and entrust himself, without embarrassment or unnecessary anxiety, to the mysterious play of the invisible yet very certain assistance of Jesus to His Church. It is not a sterile or inert wait, but a vigilant waiting in prayer.”
The awareness that it is not the Pope’s protagonism to lead the Church emerged several times in the eight-year pontificate of Benedict XVI.
It should be enough to mention Ratzinger’s words in his last speech held at the general audience in St. Peter’s Square on the morning of February 27, the day before the beginning of the papal vacancy following his renunciation: “We see how the Church is alive today! But I have always known that the Lord is in that boat, and I have always known that the barque of the Church is not mine but his. Nor does the Lord let it sink; it is he who guides it, surely also through those whom he has chosen, because he so wished…”
The same faith is found in Pope Francis, who in the Angelus of August 10, 2014, commenting on Mark’s Gospel passage, said, “How many times the same thing happens to us! Without Jesus, far from Jesus, we feel frightened and inadequate to the point of thinking we cannot succeed. Faith is lacking! But Jesus is always with us, hidden perhaps, but present and ready to support us. This is an effective image of the Church: a boat which must brave the storms and sometimes seems on the point of capsizing. What saves her is not the skill and courage of her crew members, but faith which allows her to walk, even in the dark, amid hardships. Faith gives us the certainty of Jesus’ presence always beside us, of his hand which grasps us to pull us back from danger. We are all on this boat, and we feel secure here despite our limitations and our weaknesses.”
Almost identical words to those recently repeated by the Pope Emeritus about the “boat that seems on the point of capsizing.”
It is therefore clear how instrumental it is to use the words used by Benedict in the message for Meisner’s funerals against his successor.
And especially how this instrumentalization unveils the lack of knowledge of Benedict XVI’s magisterium, as well as, deep down, a true lack of faith.
As it is also absurd to suppose that the Pope Emeritus is not the author of that message for his dear friend.
But there is another recent instrumentalization that concerns Ratzinger, though not directly Joseph, but his brother Georg, 93, former director of the Regensburg choir.
To avoid misunderstandings, it is important to point out that the findings of the diocesan investigation of the last two years are terrible: 547 children victims of ill-treatment, 67 of whom are victims of — in some cases, repeated — sexual abuse, between the 1950s and the 1990s. The abuses took place in the school attended by the boys of the choir.
The story emerged in 2010, at the height of the pedophile scandal, and it was puzzling that then-Pontiff’s brother had directed the “Regensburger Domsplatzen,” choir for 30 years.
The commission of inquiry has now completed its work and on Tuesday, July 18, the findings were announced.
No accusation of sexual abuse was moved against Georg Ratzinger, who in 2010 asked for forgiveness for his excessive anger, admitting that he had given some slaps, and that he wasn’t aware of the seriousness of the events that took place in the school.
The victims’ lawyer stated that Georg Ratzinger could not not have known, and that he had somehow covered what was happening.
It is necessary to wait and read the papers in detail, however already in 2010 Benedict XVI’s brother had stated that he had never known about allegations of sexual abuse.
More caution is therefore needed: it is obvious that the name of Georg Ratzinger in 2010 as today represents “the news.”
But associating that name with sexual abuse in the headlines (albeit formally correct) automatically suggests a sort of personal responsibility in the abuses.
Responsibility that is not there.
It’s kind of funny – as well as an indicator of the degree of instrumentalization reached by some so-called Catholic sites that so often insist on the relation between faith and reason — the pathetic attempt of those who have stressed the temporal “coincidence” between the (mismanaged) message of Benedict XVI at the funeral of his friend Meisner and the publication of the findings of the Regensburg’ abuses investigation.
Following the most typical conspiracy-style, the two facts have been related without giving the slightest indication of a real correlation, but suggesting that the second event is obviously connected to the first, as if it were a countermove from Bergoglio’s team against the resisting Pro-Ratzingers.
Lastly, it is also necessary to reject the attempts to emphasize the size of what is happening to Cardinal George Pell and the charges of historical abuse or Cardinal Gerhard Müller’s alleged underestimation of the Regensburg choir events, so to use them in the internal struggles of the Roman Curia.
[End of the July 19 Tornielli article]
Now I will post three interviews which shed further light on the action and responsibility of Georg Ratzinger for the alleged abuse of the Regensburg choir boys, and also on the views of Cardinal Mueller, who had been Bishop of Regensburg before becoming Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome for the past five years (until he was dismissed a month ago by Pope Francis).
The first interview is with Dr. Michael Hesemann, and was conducted by Deborah Castellano Lubov for Zenit news service.
The second is with Gloria Thurn und Taxis, and was conducted for Inside the Vatican, our own magazine, by German scholar and journalist Jan Bentz.
The third interview is with Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, and was conducted by Italian journalist Matteo Matuzzi for the Italian magazine Il Foglio.
#1: INTERVIEW: Michael Hesemann on George Ratzinger
Benedict XVI’s choirmaster brother “had nothing to do with” abuse at boys’ choir
German historian shows Georg Ratzinger’s lack of involvement and knowledge
By Deborah Castellano Lubov (Zenit)
“Once again, I do not want to belittle the violence and its effect on innocent children’s souls. This is all terrible and I’m glad they finally listen to their complaints. But at the same time, I have to defend Georg Ratzinger, because all this had nothing to do with him.”
In an interview with ZENIT, prolific German author and historian Michael Hesemann, who also co-authored My Brother the Pope with Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, said this, while explaining how any negative assertions about Pope Benedict’s brother, in connection with the Regensburg Report on abuse at the famous boys’ choir, are inaccurate and false.
The independent report found that at one of Germany’s most famous Roman Catholic choir schools, the “Vorschule” and “Gymnasium” of the Domspatzen choir in Regensburg, some 547 pupils were physically mistreated, and some 67 sexually abused, between 1945 and 1992.
What is called “Vorschule” (pre-school) in German got its name because it was a preparation for a career as a choir boy. Children entered it at age six, and after completing its four grades, they left at age 10. “Gymnasium” (high school) is for those aged between 10 and 19 years, consisting of nine grades. From there, in Germany, one goes on directly to university.
The Domspatzen choir was run for 30 years, from 1964 until 1994, by Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI’s elder brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, who has reiterated that he was not aware of these revelations that emerged in 2010. In 2015, German attorney Ulrich Weber was tasked with producing a report on what happened, and that finalized report was presented to the press in Regensburg, Germany on Tuesday, July 18.
Reflecting on the 440-page report on the “incidents of violence against minors at the Regensburg Cathedral Boys’ Choir,” the papal biographer Hesemann stated: “Due to sensationalism, readers have been left with the wrong and false impression that Georg Ratzinger, the brother of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, had something to do with it, since his name is mentioned in nearly all reports relating to the Regensburg Report.”
“In an almost perfidious way, like hydrochloric acid,” he continued, “this suspicion burns its way to his famous brother. In doing so, it regularly fails to point out the important fact that this report expressly exonerates the Cathedral Music Director Georg Ratzinger.”
Turning to the report, Hesemann says: “The study should actually consist of two parts, because it involves two completely different types of misdemeanors, which in the general language usage of the media are often summarized under the general term ‘abuse.’”
“This is perfidious, because the reader is led to think of ‘sexual abuse’ first. What is meant, however, is both: sexual abuse, a deplorable, horrific crime, and on the other hand, brutal educational methods, which, of course, cover a wide spectrum, from being beaten with reeds to a slap in the face.”
This second category, he noted, includes 91% of the cases.
The documented 67 cases of sexual abuse were committed by nine teachers in the period between 1945 and 2015, most of them at the pre-school of the Regensburg Cathedral Boys’ Choir in Etterzhausen and Pielenhofen, which never belonged to the sphere of influence of Georg Ratzinger.
Two perpetrators “were busy” in the early stages of Monsignor Ratzinger’s work at the Cathedral Boys’ Choir High School in Regensburg, Hesemann noted, explaining that one of them was fired after only two years.
Only a single perpetrator, the director of the high school, was in service when Georg Ratzinger began, and he stayed in office until 1971.
The report categorically concludes, Hesemann cited, that Ratzinger had never heard of the assaults, which were so embarrassing to the victims that they did not even tell their parents about it; in fact, the real problem in the prosecution of sexual abuse is always that most of the victims are silent.
If unaware, how could he intervene?
“How could he have intervened or been able to take a conscious look, if he definitely knew nothing?” asked Hesemann.
After 1972, when Ratzinger established himself in Regensburg – in the first years the cathedral director from the Upper Bavarian province was rather isolated by the Regensburg establishment and felt “artistically as well as humanly oppressed,” as he stated himself in My Brother, the Pope – there has not been a single case of sexual abuse at the Regensburg Cathedral Boys’ Choir high school – to this day. This is clear from the report.
“For this reason, he is free from any suspicion in this scandalous question. Therefore, there is no reason to link his good name with such repugnant crimes, as unfortunately happened in the press,” emphasized Hesemann.
The historian again pointed out the difference between pre-school and high school, underscoring that Georg Ratzinger first met the boys when they came from the pre-school to the cathedral boys’ choir high school. The high school, as all interviewed eyewitnesses but one agree, was quite different and much more humane.
It was in this environment that cathedral choirmaster Georg Ratzinger worked.
Born in 1924, Georg is from a time when spanking was common, Hesemann explained. “It was really difficult to estimate where the limits, which were permitted according to the time, were exceeded.”
The report counts only two instances when students informed him about the violence in Etterzhausen, the school adjacent to the choir, Hesemann noted: “The first time in 1970/71, when he was just starting to establish himself, and did not want to hear about the events at a school where he did not work and for which he was not responsible, and then again around 1993.”
When he heard of corporal punishments, he called for urgent intervention
Already, though, in 1989, Monsignor Ratzinger wrote a letter to the director of the high school, which the report even reproduces.
In this letter, he points out that “the pre-school continues to practice the spanking.”
In the face of the danger of negative press reports, he recommended urgent intervention.
Hesemann recalled: “This was, of course, at a time when physical punishments were already forbidden by law. Before the 1980s, they were legal, as each of us – I was born in 1964 – still knows from his own time at school. In any case, you cannot say he always looked away. That’s just not true.”
Most of his choir boys, the German author shared, describe Ratzinger with lots of positive terms, namely as “sincere, competent and understanding,” “friendly, yes, full of love,” “very warm,” “very popular,” “strict, fair but nevertheless good-natured” and “appreciated by all children.”
Every afternoon “he shared cakes, biscuits and candies” with the choirboys.
To quote one eyewitness: “The children have met him without fear, he has always been surrounded by groups of children.”
Passionate perfectionist and artist
However, the witnesses told, he was also an “absolute perfectionist” who “went on with the music, that was his life” and “was under pressure to keep the level of the choir.”
“Let’s not forget,” Hesemann recalled, “through his achievements the Regensburger Domspatzen were never displaced from the rank list of the world choirs.”
His high emotionality and sometimes choleric nature was seen, occasionally, not as one of his positive attributes. However, he calmed down just as quickly.
“It was rightly understood as an expression of his passion and perfectionism, indeed as spontaneous outbursts of an artist, which immediately after the rehearsal were followed by a friendly, even loving attitude,” one of the witnesses is quoted as saying.
“Without his perfectionism, without demanding unconditional discipline,” the German historian explained, “it would hardly have been possible for him to transform a provincial choir into an institution of world rank, the true cultural ambassadors of Europe and its musical tradition.”
The choir was on tour twice in the USA (1983 and 1987) and also in Japan (1988 and 1991).
Hesemann concluded: “With biscuits and sweets alone one does not make big singers out of unruly boys, and before any success, no matter where, there is always discipline, passion and self-conquest.”
Always strictly adhered to law
About his discipline methods, Hesemann said “let’s limit ourselves to the official examination report and ignore the exaggerations of the tabloid press.”
If we do, he explained, we see he has done nothing that not every one of us, as long as he was born before 1968, experienced during his own school days.
“Even his loudest prosecutors – by the way, a minority: of 124 of the ‘victims’ who had been consulted, only 55 knew of any ‘negative’ about him,” Hesemann noted, “described only the common disciplinary measures of the time, including slaps in the face, a tugging of hair, etc. While beating with reeds was used by the teaching staff of the pre-school, Georg consistently renounced this.”
“When bodily punishments were banned in Bavarian schools in 1980, he adhered strictly to this.”
Most of the choirboys express very positive memories of him, as the report notes.
The investigators Weber and Baumeister also come to the conclusion that Ratzinger can only be criticized for “lack of reactions in the knowledge of physical violence.”
Nothing to do with him
“Once again, I do not want to belittle the violence and its effect on innocent children’s souls. This is all terrible and I’m glad they finally listen to their complaints. But at the same time I have to defend Georg Ratzinger, because all this had nothing to do with him. It has also nothing to do with the Catholic Church per se.”
“These were crimes committed at almost every boarding school, ecclesiastical or secular. These were educational methods, which were then the order of the day, noting that we can be glad that we have long since overcome this time.”
“But it is most unjust to make a man a media scapegoat, just because he himself is prominent and has an even more prominent brother,” said Hesemann.
“Since the report, which has just been published, spells out that he is free of any relevant lapse, now it would just be decent to finally leave a 93-year-old gentleman, who has earned great merits, in the peace and respect he deserves.”
[End Lubov interview with Hesemann]
#2: INTERVIEW: Gloria von Thurn und Taxis on Georg Ratzinger
An Interview with Princess Gloria von Thurn on the Regensburg Boys’ Choir Abuse Scandal
“We are scandalized by abuse that happened 40 years ago, but the same voices stay quiet when we abuse children right now”
By Jan Bentz
Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis is a friend of choirmaster Georg Ratzinger, brother of Pope Emeritus Benedict. She was interviewed on July 21.
Princess Gloria, what is your relationship with the brothers Ratzinger?
I have been a fan of Georg Ratzinger the conductor and the Regensburg Boys choir for many years. We always went to his concerts and supported the choir. Cardinal Ratzinger came to visit his brother many times and I was happy to invite him home also to say Mass. We were very happy when he became Pope Benedict. We were very proud of him.
Recently old cases of abuse cases in the Catholic Boys’ School (Choir) Regensburger Domspatzen resurfaced. Do you think the reports are exaggerated?
Abuse is always very bad and we feel for the verbally, physically and psychologically abused victims. But unfortunately the devil reigns in this world and therefore abuse is a constant problem in all walks of life. We are shocked when we hear of sexual abuse especially in religious circles. But it is certainly not only a Catholic problem.
Alexander Probst, spokesperson for the allegedly abused, told the Bayrischen Rundfunk that you should “cease to make general and stupid statements of things that you have no idea about.” Your response?
He has the right to say his opinion. I did not mean to hurt anyone’s feelings by giving my answers to the interviewer. I just said that we all got beaten when we were naughty as children because it was still common practice in those days.
Do you think that the re-surfacing of the topic was planned and targeted to hurt Pope Emeritus Benedict (and/or the reputation of the Domspatzen)?
Now this is something I really don’t know. The fact is the Domspatzen boarding school is one of the top-notch schools for musical education. And if you have a talented son, this is where you want him to be educated. They go on world-wide concert tours, they sing like angels and every boy gets to play as many instruments as he likes. It’s heaven for musicians.
The brother of the Pope Emeritus, Georg Ratzinger, called the re-opening of the cases (that are more than 40 years old) “insanity” (“Irrsinn”); do you agree with him?
We are scandalized by abuse that happened 40 years ago, but the same voices stay quiet when we abuse children right now. The current educational systems in Europe, the US and Canada teach children, in school about sex toys and all different kinds of sexual preferences. This is also child abuse but no one complains. Why is that?
Teach the kids that they have to be wary because the world is a dangerous place. Unfortunately, abuse happens a lot in families too. But as a consequence you cannot forbid families altogether, can you?
[End Interview with Gloria von Thurn und Taxis]
#3: INTERVIEW: Cardinal Mueller
“I’m loyal to the Pope, not an adulator”
Il Foglio interviews Cardinal Müller: “The Church cannot be sustained by the applause of the world”
Matteo Matuzzi, the Vatican reporter for Il Foglio, in an exclusive interview with the now former Prefect of the Congregation for the Faith. “I am loyal to the Pope, but not an adulator,” declares the German prelate. He also says what he thinks about the Dubia: “I don’t understand why serene discussion can’t be started on the Dubia. I’ve only heard insults so far.”
By Matteo Matuzzi
July 21, 2017
Rome. The truth about the last audience between the former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Pope Francis; the divisions in the Church after the Synod. “The Magisterium does not have the authority to correct Jesus Christ, if anything it’s the opposite”
Your Eminence, do you have any idea why the Pope decided to remove you as Head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith?
“No, I don’t know, because the Pope didn’t tell me. He just informed me that my mandate would not be renewed. There have been many speculations in the mass-media recently, and I would say that the nomination of the new Secretary of the Congregation (Monsignor Giacomo Morandi) made public last Tuesday, is a key in understanding these maneuvers.”
Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Muller is serene; German theologian and Prefect for five years of what was once the Holy Office, nominated by Benedict XVI, confirmed by Francis, who, even so, told him of his decision to release him of his office last June 30th. With Il Foglio he retraces once again the stages that led to his removal: from the controversies on the interpretation of the post-Synod Exhortation Amoris laetitia and, more in general, he reflects on the (bad) state of religion in Europe. Yet there was talk of his discharge for some time, so much so, that there were even speculations from the media of eventual diocesan relocations for the editor of Joseph Ratzinger’s opera omnia.
“I have always been serene”
Muller responds: “I think I have fulfilled my duties, even more than was necessary. Nobody doubted my theological competence. I have always been loyal to the Pope, as our Catholic Faith and our ecclesiology demand. This loyalty has always been accompanied by theological competence, so it has never been loyalty reduced to pure adulation.”
And this because “the Magisterium needs competent theological counsels, as indeed is well described in Lumen gentium no. 25 and the gift of the Holy Spirit provides in a clear way through which the bishops and the Pope as Head of the Episcopal College act. However, we are all men and we need counsels; the content of the Faith cannot be explained without a clear foundation of Biblical studies. The same thing goes — he continues — for the development of dogma. Nobody may elaborate on a magisterial document without knowing the Fathers of the Church and the great dogmatic decisions on moral theology of the various councils. The Congregation of the Doctrine for the Faith exists for this reason and is the most important Congregation in the Roman Curia. It has two theological committees in addition to a consulting body. In short, it has a clear task and great responsibility with regard to the orthodoxy of the Church.”
Is it true, as was written in some places, that your last conversation with Francis was tense and cold?
“These are totally false reconstructions. The Pope simply informed me of his decision of not renewing my mandate. Nothing more. It was a work meeting; normal, at the end of which the Holy Father informed me of his decision. The next day I was discharged. However, some hypotheses were put forth about the reasons for the rupture and besides the presumed slowness in pursuing the cases of clerical abuse, several information agencies wrote of [my] excessive mass-media exposure, often counteracting the Pope.”
A different modus operandi compared with that of his two immediate predecessors…
The Cardinal smiles:
“It seems to me it could be said that Cardinal Ratzinger’s presence in the mass-media was very evident, even with his important interview-books. This is part of the duty of the Prefect, which is not just pure and simple bureaucratic work. I was known also before as a theologian, with numerous publications. And anyway, if I may say so, even the Pope uses the means of interviews. The fact is that today we must use modern instruments of communication. Young people don’t always read books and newspapers. They use the social network, the internet. And if we want to promote the faith – which is, if I remember right, the main task — we have to enter into dialogue with them on this platform. I never spoke of my thought, of myself in these interviews – but of the Faith!
“And then — if I remember right — I am a bishop and a bishop has the obligation of spreading the Gospel, not only in his homilies, but also through scientific discussions with his contemporaries.
“We,” he adds, “we are not a restricted religion, a club. We are a Church in dialogue, the religion of the Word of God, which Christ Himself consigned to His apostles, exhorting us to preach and teach it to the entire world.”
Very well, but some intra ecclesiam tension exists, this can be verified quite easily. Take for instance, Amoris laetitia, the document produced after the two Synods on family morals. His Eminence, Christoph Schònborn, also a theologian and inspirer of the liberal solution, recently reiterated how his position was the opposite of Muller’s. Well, then?
“Perhaps Cardinal Schònborn has a vision contrary to mine, but perhaps he has a position contrary also to what he had before, seeing as he has changed it.
“I think that the words of Jesus Christ must always be the foundation of the Church’s doctrine. And nobody — until yesterday — could say that this was not true.
“It is clear: we have the irreversible revelation of Christ. And the Church has been entrusted with the depositum fidei, i.e. the entire content of revealed truth. The Magisterium does not have the authority to correct Jesus Christ. It is He, if anyone, Who corrects us.
“And we are obliged to obey Him; we must be faithful to the doctrine of the apostles, clearly developed in the spirit of the Church.”
Forgive me, but why then did you also vote for the report in the small group of the German language, written by Schoenborn himself and approved by Walter Kasper?
“The Synod said clearly that individual bishops are responsible for this path, to bring people to full Sacramental grace,” responds Cardinal Muller to Il Foglio.
“This interpretation exists, without doubt, but I have never changed my private and subjective position. Yet as bishop and cardinal I represented the Church’s doctrine, which I know in its fundamental developments, from the Council of Trent to Gaudium et spes, the two guidelines. This is Catholic, the rest belongs to other beliefs.
“I don’t understand,” he explains, “how they can harmonize different theological and dogmatic positions with the clear words of Jesus and St. Paul. Both made clear that you cannot marry a second time if your legitimate spouse is still alive.”
Do you understand the reasons that brought Cardinals Burke, Brandmueller, Caffarra and the now deceased Meisner to present to the Pope five Dubia about the Exhortation?
“I don’t understand why a calm and serene discussion hasn’t [yet] begun. I don’t understand where the obstacles are. Why allow only tensions to emerge, even publicly? Why not organize a meeting to talk openly about these themes, which are fundamental?
“Until now I’ve only heard invectives and insults against these cardinals. But this is not the manner nor tone to move forward. We are all brothers in the Faith and I cannot accept talk about categories like ‘a friend of the Pope’ or ‘an enemy of the Pope.’
“For a cardinal it is absolutely impossible to be against the Pope.
“Nonetheless,” the former Prefect of the Holy office continues, “we bishops have the right, I would say the divine right, to discuss freely.
“I would like to bring to mind, that at the first Council, all of the disciples spoke frankly, even favoring controversies. In the end, Peter gave his dogmatic explanation, which was for the entire Church. But only afterwards, at the end of a long lively discussion. Councils have never been harmonious gatherings.”
The point is whether Amoris laetitia is or not a form of discontinuity with respect to previous teaching. Is it or is it not?
“The Pope,” says Mueller, “has many times declared that there is no change in the dogmatic doctrine of the Church, and this is evident, as it would also be impossible.
“Francis wanted to attract these people again, who find themselves in irregular situations with regard to matrimony; that is, how to get them closer to the fonts of sacramental grace.
“There are ways — also canonical.
“In any case, those who want to receive Communion and find themselves in a state of mortal sin, must first receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which consists in heartfelt contrition, with a firm purpose of not sinning anymore, in the confession of sins and in the conviction of acting according to the will of God.
“And nobody can modify this sacramental order, which was fixed by Jesus Christ.
“If anything, we may change the external rites, but not this central nucleus. Ambiguity in Amoris laetitia?
“There may be and I don’t know whether it was intended. The ambiguities if they exist, are connected with the material complexity of the situation in which the men of today find themselves, the culture they are immersed in.
“Nowadays, practically all of the fundamentals and essential elements for populations that superficially call themselves Christian are no longer comprehensible.
“From here,” the Cardinal adds, “the problems arise. We have two challenges ahead; first of all: to clarify what the redeeming will of God is and question ourselves about the way of helping pastorally these brothers and go on the path indicated by Jesus.”
The receiving of Communion by the divorced and remarried was an old request from the German Episcopate…
“It is true, there were three German bishops: Kasper, Lehmann and Saier, who launched the proposal at the beginning of the 1990s. But the Congregation of the Doctrine for the Faith rejected it definitively. Everyone agreed that it was necessary to discuss it again and till now nobody has abrogated the document.”
With regard to the German Church: it is from there that the strongest winds of change have come over the last three years, with Cardinal Marx, who said [publicly] in front of a microphone that “Rome will never tell us what to do or not to do in Germany”. So what’s the situation today in Germany?
“Dramatic,” immediately responds Cardinal Mueller, who had been the Bishop of Regensburg, prior to being called to Rome by Benedict XVI.
“Active participation is very much diminished, also the transmission of the Faith not as a theory but as an encounter with Jesus Christ has waned.
“Religious vocations the same.
“These are the signs, factors from which we can see the situation of the Church, but it is all of Europe now that is experiencing a process of forced de-Christianization., which goes way beyond mere secularization.
“It is the de-Christianization of the entire anthropological base, with man strictly defined without God and without transcendence.
“Religion is experienced as a sentiment, not as adoration of God, Creator and Savior. In this grand context, such factors are not good for the transmission of a living Christian Faith and for this it is necessary not to waste our energies in internal fights, in clashes against each other, with the so-called progressives who are striving for victory by driving out the so-called conservatives.
“If we reason like this,” says Mueller, “we give the idea that the Church is something strongly politicized.
“Our a priori is not to be a conservative or progressive.
“Our a priori is Jesus.
“Is believing in the Resurrection, in the Ascension and the Return of Christ on The Last Day traditionalist or progressivist faith?
“No, this is simply the Truth. Our categories must be truth and justice, not the categories that go according to the spirit of the times.”
The Cardinal calls the present situation “grave” since “sacramental praxis, oration and prayer have been reduced.”
“All the elements of the living faith, the people’s faith, have collapsed. And the drama is that there is no sense anymore of the need for God, for the sacred and visible word of Jesus.
“Life is lived as if God doesn’t exist.
“Responding to all of this is our great challenge.
“We are not propaganda agents of our own truths, but witnesses to the redeeming truth. Not an idea of the faith, but reality experienced with the presence of Christ in the world.”
Your Eminence, do you think that even inside the Church there is a certain compliance with the Zeitgeist, the spirit of the times?
“Emeritus Pope Benedict spoke about the spirit of the times, but St. Paul had already discussed the Spirit of God and the spirit of the world.
“This contrast is very important and ought to be known.
“The affirmation for the Faith, the Church and Bishops, is not given by the applause of an uninformed mass.
“It is something else: our work is appreciated and approved when we are able to convince a person to offer themselves entirely to Jesus Christ, putting their own existence in the hands of Jesus.
“In his First Letter, St. Peter speaks of Jesus Christ, Shepherd of souls.
“Is there talk today of responsibility for culture and the environment? Yes, but we have many competent lay people for this. People who have responsibility in politics; we have governments and parliaments, and so on.
“Jesus did not entrust the secular government to the apostles. Bishop-Princes existed centuries ago, and it wasn’t a good thing for the Church.”
With regard to de-Christianization, we asked Cardinal Mueller what he thought of “The Benedict Option,” the theme launched some years ago by the writer Rod Dreher, who hypothesizes a way to live as Christians in the un-Christianized West or, as the former Prefect of the Doctrine for the Faith says, de-Christianized.
“The essential thing to say,” explains Mueller, “is that Christians cannot go back into the catacombs. The missionary dimension is fundamental for the Catholic Church.
“We cannot avoid the present battles.
“Christ said that He hadn’t come into the world to obtain a superficial peace, but to challenge [us], until Christians win graces to live following the path that He indicated. And we have to do so when conditions, like those today, are not favorable.”
Is it correct to say that under the current Papacy the European-centered vision of the Church has diminished?
“The center of the Church is Christ, and where He is, that’s the center.
“These reflections on the Euro-centeredness of the Church are oriented only towards giving it a politicized reading.
“Instead of speaking of the Gospel or Catholic Doctrine we indulge in strategies and theories.
“Culturally it is true. Europe has had a great role in the world, with all the positive and negative elements that it attained. Among the negative ones I mention colonialism; among the positive ones, the philosophy of reality, metaphysics and law.”
One last question, on a matter that saw Cardinal Muller in a leading role: the hypothesized reconciliation with the Fraternity of St. Pius X, the community founded by the French Bishop, Marcel Lefebvre…
“The reconciliation of this group with the Catholic Church is absolutely necessary. Jesus did not want separations.
“But what are the conditions of experiencing full communion?
“I think that the conditions have to be the same for everyone. We have the profession of faith, one cannot choose what to accept and what not to accept. Everyone must profess it.
“All of the Ecumenical Councils have to be accepted, likewise the living Magisterium of the Church.
“Interpreting Vatican II as a re-foundation of the Church is an absurdity. The abuses, ideologies and misunderstandings are most certainly not a consequence of Vatican II.”