Patrick Bauer is a pastoral worker for the archbishopric Cologne and speaker of the advisory board for abuse victims. In front of his own school, the Aloisiuskolleg in Bonn, however, his voice fails him.
In the morning sun Patrick Bauer stands at Elisabethstraße and looks over to his former school, the Ako, the Aloisiuskolleg. A man like a tree, self-confident, self-conscious. Only the handshake is softer than expected. After our conversation Bauer will hurry to his work as Catholic prison chaplain of the archbishopric of Cologne. Yesterday he stood by a violent criminal in a prison, he says.
"Of course I also assist murderers if they have religious needs. I always see the person," says Bauer. In office, he therefore also talks to abusers. "But if they expect understanding for their actions, I break off immediately. Not with me". Bauer falls silent. He puts his hands into his sides - and suddenly seems lost.
Patrick Bauer is 49 years old. He graduated from high school 30 years ago. "I don't feel well here in front of school," he says with a full voice. "It's as if a stone is heavy in my stomach." Somehow he feels like the eleven-year-old again, who couldn't defend himself at exactly this place.
Bauer has been involved since spring in the intervention work of the Archbishopric of Cologne. He acts as spokesman on the advisory board for victims of sexual abuse, an institution unique in dioceses. He was able to talk to Rainer Maria Cardinal Woelki about this topic "at eye level", Bauer emphasizes. But here, in front of his former school, his voice fails.
"You have to make it up the stairs"
He prefers to continue the press conference he conducts as a private person in the Redoutenpark. "I'll show you the place where we boys used to like to sit together." But Bauer stops briefly at the Ako stairs. When he entered the college again three years ago, his knees became weak. So many memories were washed over him. "You have to make it up the stairs, otherwise you will always be the little boy who trembles under the blanket," he swore to himself at the time.
In 2016, he had been on his way to the then still existing round of dialogue between the College and the Eckige Tisch Bonn, the association of people affected by violence. Until 2017, representatives of the college community and victims such as Bauer struggled to find ways to deal with the multiple abuse of power that independent commissions had determined continued for a period of more than five decades. "I wanted to give the victims in the round a voice when they could not speak," said Bauer. "Because I too have life imprisonment.
He quickly steps into the park. His mental injuries, which never went away again, he says. "There always remains an open wound.
Bauer settles down on a bench above the duck pond. Water gurgles out of the fountain. Birds chirp in the treetops of the mighty beeches. What happened to him during his boarding school years from 1980 to 1989 on the Ako? A slight groan.
The naked Priest waited daily in the shower room
Then Bauer hints at how the management of the college and the educators left him and the other lower school pupils alone with Priest Ludger Stüper, the then headmaster of the boarding school and future headmaster, who was always waiting there naked with his bathrobe open, at the morning showers in the Stella Rheni college villa. Bauer reports of horrible head blows by the priest and of forced rectal temperature taking at night on the Flokati carpet in the man's private room. "I cannot tell everything. It's different for me." The 49-year-old clears his throat.
The Zinsmeister investigation report from 2011 records multiple sexual abuse of the subjects and children, forced oral intercourse, deprivation of liberty and bodily injury for this priest, who died in July 2010. The Jesuit had been allowed to live with younger pupils in the Stella Rheni until 2006 and to help out in the boarding school until 2007. He was investigated until his death on the basis of a student complaint.
In 2013, in the book "Unheilige Macht", published by Jesuits, commentators are indignant that priests had been able, unhindered by the Order, to run "a paedophile heavenly kingdom" on Godesberg's "Holy Mountain" in the manner of a landowner.
Patrick Bauer describes that after the outbreak of the nationwide abuse scandal in 2010 he initially kept away from the topic. "I buried it all deep inside myself." It was only later that he understood that his depressions, the absence from work, the failure of his marriage, the break-up of his family and his need for therapy had to do with "all that". And - another shock for him - that his brothers were also affected.
In 2014 he had received the book "Unheiliger Berg" about the abuse of power on the Ako. "And in it I suddenly read my own story five times," Bauer remembers. At the beginning of 2016 he made contact with the Eckiger Tisch Bonn. And suddenly he belonged to those who were stamped as perpetrators by other alumni: "Because we destroyed their whole world.
So for five years he is now living with the truth about his boarding school years. "And I notice that since then I have generally become more courageous." He could now deal better with himself and also with his ex-wife. His children also benefited from the new clarity. "I think I have been more pleasant for them in the last five years than before," Bauer says quietly.
Who compensates Bauer's wife? Who compensates his children?
He received confirmation from the Council of the Archbishopric of the victims that other victims felt well represented by him. "He gives us good words," he hears. And then Bauer suddenly gets angry. Who would compensate his wife for how he treated her during his depression? Who would compensate his children, who for years had a father "who was partially knocked out"? Who compensates his employer for the lost working hours? "Who will give me back my life lost in the therapies?
Because with his school and the order he has not made any progress except for a symbolic recognition payment of 5000 Euro. Bauer regrets that this is because the dialogue between the College and the Square Table has been suspended since 2017. The group of victims would not allow itself to be placed under conditions for continuation.
Firstly, he finds it disappointing that the Ako has not yet invited the victims as witnesses to a discussion with the current student body. "Secondly, it is inconceivable for me that the former crime scene Stella Rheni can be offered today by an event organizer as a place for celebrations," Bauer criticizes.
The leadership of the order should "finally call the confidant to account"
Thirdly, it was incomprehensible to him that no place of remembrance of the victims had yet been created on the site. Bauer can imagine a kind of stumbling block model, as Gunter Demnig does for Nazi victims. And fourthly, it is not bearable for him that the Order leaves Priest Theo Schneider, former Ako boarding school director (1984-2006) and rector (2007-2010), who resigned in 2010, still today as superior of the Göttingen Jesuits in leading function, Bauer enumerates.
"The leadership of the order must finally call him to account as a confidant and non-inhibitor. Until today he has not publicly apologized." So far the Jesuits are not ready to go where it really hurts.The General-Anzeiger has asked the responsible persons of the Order and the Ako for comments. Provincial Priest Johannes Siebner, himself Ako Rector from 2011 to 2017, replies from Munich: "It is well known that within the Order we are struggling to come to terms with abuse of the Ako, expressly also with Priest Schneider". It is not only his personal concern, but also his concern as Provincial, to make real progress in this question, explains Germany's Supreme Jesuit. In addition, he very much hopes that the thread of conversation will be taken up again by those affected, the college community and the Order.
Priest Martin Löwenstein, Ako Rector since 2017, replied that he regretted that the Square Table had broken off the talks with the Order. "I am therefore very grateful to Mr. Bauer that we both met and talked to each other. The meeting took place following a request from the General-Anzeiger to both of them.
"From our side, there are still no preconditions for a discussion with those affected," the Rector now contradicts Bauer's statement. He experienced "an encouraging willingness from the entire school community to support our intensive discussion on the topics of violence against children and the culture of mindfulness“.
According to Priest Löwenstein, this attentiveness must also apply to all those who had experienced violence here at that time. "This is why I am very much in favour of working with those affected to find a form of remembrance that leads to lasting questions and discussion. He considered whether he should urinate on the grave of the perpetrator.
The public discussion between those affected and members of the college, especially interested pupils, had taken place, contradicts the Rector, and should definitely continue to take place. "The readiness of the square table and other affected people is there, as is ours, because listening and talking to each other is of lasting importance.
Obviously there is a fundamental problem with communication at the moment
Patrick Bauer was, by the way, on the occasion of an appointment alone in the collegiate cemetery of the Priests, where three of the main perpetrators identified by the commissions are buried. "I am deeply rooted in my faith," he says. Without it, he would not have survived. "I was not abused by the church, but by a man who exploited the church system," he emphasizes. At the grave of "his perpetrator", who gave him his worst years, he briefly considered "whether I should now urinate on it". For the first time a smile almost flashes in Bauer's face. "But then I prayed at the grave that God would give this man the appropriate punishment.“
He could not forgive the priest, no. He firmly believes that in the end there will be justice through God, as described in the creed: "From there he will come to judge the living and the dead".
Original text: Ebba Hagenberg-Miliu
Translation: Mareike Graepel