I don’t often comment on the sexual abuse cases. I will just make an observation about the current allegations against the Regensburg choir and Mons. Georg Ratzinger. Cathnews reports:
There have also been reports of severe beatings by administrators at two primary feeder schools for the choir, one in Etterzhausen and one in Peilenhofen. One director has been cited in several allegations as being particularly abusive, the AP report adds.
Mons Ratzinger said boys would open up to him about being mistreated in Etterzhausen, but did nothing … “Had I known with what exaggerated fierceness he was acting, I would have said something”.
“Of course, today one condemns such actions,” he is cited saying. “I do as well. At the same time, I ask the victims for pardon.”
“At the beginning I also repeatedly administered a slap in the face, but always had a bad conscience about it,” he said, adding that he was happy when corporal punishment was made illegal in 1980.
Of course, today one condemns such actions. In the 70’s and earlier one did not. I too was beaten in primary school by the teacher – with the weapon we call the “yardstick”. She had a lesser weapon we called “the ruler”. Both instruments were designed for drawing a line, and they certainly did so in more ways than one. In fact, all members of my class still remember the day she hit one student so hard on the backside that the yardstick snapped in two… I guess it is an injustice that she hasn’t been imprisoned yet to pay for her cruelty.
But then I guess you would have to imprison my parents too. They had a thing called “the Strap” and it was mighty powerful in laying down the law. My father never administered this punishment in anger. Strikes were administered in strict accordance with misdemeanours and at some duration after the actual crime. It certainly kept four unruly boys in check. Am I too conclude from this that my father did not love me?
For the record, Cathy and I do not and never have used corporal punishment on our children. Like Mons. Ratzinger, my primary school teacher, and my parents, we have all come to realise that there are other less violent ways of disciplining children. But really, are we to be surprised that an elite German School would have used corporal punishment in the era before the 1980’s enlightenment? And we have to realise too that there are some forms of violence – eg. verbal – which can be more damaging on a permanent basis than corporal punishment.
There is, of course, a very, very thick dark line to be drawn between corporal punishment administered rationally and in a limited manner, and sustained, cruel physical, sexual or verbal abuse. According to reports and allegations, there were some in the circle of the Regensburg Choir schools who stepped out of the one thing (discipline) and into another (abuse). But lets not muddy the waters in this discussion. It is vital that, in order to understand what consitutes abuse, we understand what does NOT constitute abuse.