An arduous path

Next Monday will mark nine months since the Ettal monastery in Upper Bavaria confirmed allegations of physical and sexual violence from circles of former boarding school students. Since then, the arduous process of coming to terms with a dark past has been underway. The religious community now wants to drill deeper again. For this it has engaged the former federal interrogation judge Hans-Joachim Jentsch.

The 73-year-old from Wiesbaden has been commissioned by the monks to look through all documented cases and to research weak points in the system. This he is to do "in the closest possible contact" the association "Ettaler abuse and abuse victims", it is said. In the past, the Benedictines have been subjected to sometimes fierce accusations from victims. The preliminary final report has been available since July, but questions remain: Why was nothing made public for so long? How could it come so far at all?

The chairman of the victims' association Robert Kohler welcomes the fact that such a "renowned public figure" is now involved. His association had already suggested this in June, but he would have liked to have been involved in the selection process. It is unclear what experience the lawyer has in the field of sexual abuse of children. The monks emphasize Jentsch's independence. He had neither attended the monastery school nor had any other personal connections to Ettal.

Abbot Barnabas Bogle and his prior Maurus Krab have resolved that never again will a child or young person experience terrible suffering at the hands of an Ettal religious. At the behest of the Vatican, they could return in the summer to their meanwhile resigned offices. The "Ettal Victims of Abuse and Maltreatment" association has been conducting victim-offender talks since the fall, in which a mediator is consulted as needed. Sometimes the monks only talk to the mediator when a victim refuses to talk directly. The association expressly praises the commitment of the mediators.

Six Benedictines confronted with allegations
Apart from confreres who have already died, six Benedictines are facing accusations. "All of them were removed from their pastoral and educational duties," ares Prior. The public prosecutor has not yet completed all the investigations. The Benedictines regret that the cases, most of which are already time-barred, are no longer being investigated. Internally, further investigations are being carried out on the basis of the victims' reports, and the facts are being sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for further examination.

Some victims have already received initial financial assistance. Thus a lawyer's first consultation for approximately 250 euro is paid if necessary by the monastery. Who can prove with a certificate that he was in treatment with a licensed therapist because of incidents in Ettal, gets up to 1.000 euros subsequently transferred. Current therapies are paid with up to 5.000 Euros supported. This corresponds to about 50 sessions at 100 euros each.

Reparations are sometimes unconventional: an old Ettaler credibly ares that music alone has helped him to overcome the after-effects of his terrible experiences in his schooldays. The convent then gives him money, which he invests in an alphorn.

Argument at alumni meeting
The Victims Association recognizes that the monks are open-minded on the subject of compensation. But what he would like even more is for what happened to be made widely accessible to the circle of Old Ettalers "without malice" and for the monastery to take a stand on the misdeeds of its members. Kohler regrets that alumni still regularly get into each other's hair at class reunions.

Towards the end of the Bavarian summer vacation, the abbot, prior and two other confreres had a brief audience with the Pope in Castelgandolfo.
At the same time Benedict XVI. to have spoken plainly. The monks from his Bavarian homeland have found a sentence of the pontiff encouraging: "Something good can grow out of evil."

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Christina Cherry
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