One year after the abuse scandal

From the 1950s to the 1980s, there came to be in St. Blasien on violence and abuse. At least 30 victims are to be amed – so far the facts one year after the abuse scandal at the renowned Jesuit college came to light. Time for a closing point then?

Everyday school life continues. The Abitur exams are coming up soon. And before College Director Johannes Siebner reports on how the acts of abuse by Catholic priests that have gradually come to light since January 2010 have affected the College of St. Joseph. Blasien, he quickly inquires about the newly installed soccer field: "Is it really the case that the artificial turf can be played on again quickly even after rain??"

Despite all normality, a visit to the renowned Black Forest boarding school St. Blasien quickly realized that the reappraisal and confrontation with abuse and cover-up have by no means come to an end. In the meantime it is clear, as the external investigator Ursula Raue has recorded, that from the 1950s to the 1980s there was violence and abuse at the Jesuit College. At least 30 victims are to be amed. Only a few days ago, the public prosecutor's office discontinued its investigations, as all acts are statute-barred under criminal law. Time for a closing point then?

"There are now words for what was previously unspeakable"
College principal Siebner, but also parent representatives and teachers vehemently disagree. The most important lesson to be learned from the abuse cases is the greatest possible transparency and an end to taboo and speechlessness in matters of sexuality, violence and border crossings. And Siebner is certain that much has been achieved in the past year. "There are now words for what was previously unspeakable, that is the change."

High school graduate Marie-Sophie Grunewalder confirms: "Every student knows who to turn to. There are contacts we trust."The new display case in the school hallway lists points of contact: School chaplain, guidance counselor, school psychologist, high school guidance counselor, and a reference to "Wendepunkt," an outside counseling service that also advises teachers during continuing education events.

Christian Spitz, chairman of the parents' association and pediatrician, knows from his own practice: "I'm afraid that we can't eliminate abuse from the world. More than five percent of all children are victims of abuse."That's why it's important to him to break the taboos and silence structures in schools. "We must not let up, and must address the uncomfortable topic again and again."Children should be empowered to say no when boundaries are crossed.

At the same time, one year after the acts were uncovered, it is clear that for most students the scandal has long since receded into the background. "That was then quickly no longer an ie," says student spokesman Johannes von Gumppenberg. And guidance counselor Georg Leber says: "Although the news about abuse hit like a bomb. But it quickly became clear that this dark past could not shake the confidence in the school today."

Lay new registrations
In view of the scandal, it sounds surprising: no student was deregistered from the college, new registrations rather increased. When Leber gives information about the college at the surrounding elementary schools, he has to face many questions from parents – but no one wants to know anything about the abuse cases.

One reason for the continuing parental trust: The Jesuit order has apparently succeeded in making it clear that in the year
in 2010, there could be no more cover-ups and a policy of providing information in tidbits. Father Klaus Mertes from Canisius College in Berlin and Father Siebner in St. Blasien dealt openly with the cases, which cast such dark shadows on their order and their schools.

"It was clear to me from the beginning that there could be no alternative to painful disclosure of all the facts," Siebner says. Even if this did not always meet with approval within the church and the word of the nest-destroyers made the rounds: the college is reaping the fruits of this policy today.

But one shadow remains. Because the pressing question of the victims, why there is still no agreement on recognition payments, can also Siebner not satisfactorily answer. Although he clearly advocates that the church should go ahead with a four-digit sum as a "symbolic act of atonement". His vague hope that a solution for the whole church will be found "very soon" is not enough for the victims.

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