Chairman of the Association “Betroffene kirchlicher Gewalt”
This film was made thanks to the conscientiousness of decent people and a stroke of fate. Bernadette Stummer, who already helped to run the “Long Night of Abuse” many years ago, made contact with the filmmaker Patricia Marchart’s Schutzfilm team via the FOX medialab and the PR consultants Jakob Purkarthofer and Christian Fiala. Over the course of one hundred hours, and with astonishing empathy, the film team conducted interviews with the survivors of these atrocities. This allowed victims to talk intimately about the cruel and shady world of the Church, which has traumatised, stigmatised and gagged them to this day as supposedly violated.
I hope that this film will finally shake up the public view and force the Church to take responsibility for its actions, and the state to acknowledge its failure to prevent this from happening, instead of each trying to extract and absolve itself with the help of hypocritical commissions and empty gestures. The film will hopefully also help to end the continuing cover-up of the crimes by the Church. It is not the victims who should be ashamed, but rather the Church! The victims are owed compassion, recognition, respect, compensation and redress. May the film also motivate many other affected persons, who have so far lived in silence, to tell their story and realise that there was nothing they could have done, that they are not at fault for what was done to them as children. May this film give those affected the strength to shake off the role of victim imposed on them by the so-called protectors of the innocent in order to continue controlling and managing them. This film concerns nothing less than the prevention of the systematic destruction of the body and soul, also of future generations, in state-protected organisations such as the Church. A film that once again brings the greatest crime in post-war Austria to public awareness.
We were being prepared for First Holy Communion in religious class in the spring of 1984. The local priest switched on the projector and showed a picture on the white wall of the classroom.
The devil! Yes, the devil – that’s what he looks like – you kids must be careful of him! The monster incarnate on the wall of our very own classroom – horrifically disfigured with a terrifying, distorted face – yes, now I know what he looked like!
But it turned out quite differently!
At first, visiting the locations of the worst possible abuse, humiliation, abasement and rape almost 3 decades later hit me to the core in a brutal way. The various forests, Pörtschach am Wörthersee, Lucerne, Zurich, Episcopal Palace in Passau, St. Paul’s monastery, different parochial houses, the playground, Father Berthold’s bedroom, etc.…
But it was the only way to show little Georg, so over time I grew into this “small boy” and was able to allow him to speak, with all of his “emotions”!
Thank you for making it possible to show these crimes to the body, mind and spirit in such a visually stunning manner!
The hope that other people can grasp this crime in the “knowledge and protection of the Catholic Church”, and that I can contribute to ensuring that violence against children is not regarded – as some “Catholic pro-life” advocates claim – as an “invention” of the media!
For me personally, I wish for a life worth living in constant “confrontation” with my rapists, and an end to the most stupid of all possible questions: “Why didn’t you say something at the time?”
At first I was very insecure and nervous. I gained more confidence with every interview. My admiration for the two filmmakers, Patricia and her partner, grew each time. They gave me the long yearned-for feeling of being truly listened to. I could see their shock and bewilderment, etc. in their faces. And then I realised that my first few years using sign language was one of the reasons why I saw nothing when I looked into faces, only that I wasn’t being understood.
But here, with these wonderful people, I received exactly what I needed. They accepted me, very sensitively, that was new. Very positively, and just as I am. Without any criticism. A fantastic feeling!
And the most important thing: The tour through my past by car. It changed everything. Suddenly everything was over, visually. There was no going back, no clinging to what had happened. And then there was my daughter’s death. This grief was also met with compassion. Yes, this grief was joined by the grief over my childhood, youth, marriages. Over a life that could have gone differently. The anger about what the nuns did to me: a marionette. It even negatively influenced my marriage, my children for many years.
I am glad to have this tour of the past under control.
I can talk and laugh about it, and also remain silent.
Should I ever be reborn, then I would like to come back as a child of these two people! Thank you!
Again and again I meet people who say: Everyone has a story like that!
That suddenly makes me feel dismissed, and I have to listen to their story, whether or not I want to. Sure, I know that everyone has his story and that it can be quite heavy or difficult. Each person’s experience is bad. But I want to tell my story of what I experienced. I want to talk about the consequences of abuse and ill-treatment, both by one’s own family and also by the “HOLINESS” of the Catholic Church, which is also incurred as subsequent damage to one’s own children and grandchildren. This feeling of being left alone, this rejection, this spite, mobbing, PLAYING DEAF, contempt, etc.
Even though we are the ones who have experienced EXTREME THINGS …
We too want to be loved, accepted and heard!
Styria, Admont Monastery
I felt awful before and during my outing. I practically lost my family: My wife divorced me immediately! (The two offending priests laughed out loud during the negotiations in Leoben when they heard that.) But then I described everything in detail, also in the film, since there was nothing more to lose or to whitewash.
I expect a lot of the film. Above all, I hope that it will help me to convince the judges at the concluding proceedings at the District Court of LG Leoben what these criminals are like. All of them.
I sued the Admont Monastery and the two offenders. I was proven 100% right by the Klasnic Commission. Received the maximum amount. And now I really hope that, thanks to this film, the offenders will laugh a little less at the concluding proceedings.
It was not easy for me to go public with my story, but it helps the campaign against all kinds of violence against children, especially in the here and now. It should help to minimise fresh wounds and scars – they never heal. At best, one can learn to live with them. Society must finally realise the personal and economic damage that is caused as a result.
No matter how hard you try, it is impossible to lead a successful life after all the educational measures that were inflicted upon you with the knowledge and approval of the authorities. This system has not really improved to this day in terms of the essential points, namely unkindness, violence and abuse.
After 50 years I can just about deal with my own story, proven by files containing hundreds of pages, but the years have now been lived and my strength could have been used for nicer things.
Since I was already forced to experience a brief version of the 2,000-year hellish history of the Roman Catholic Church as a child, the reminders during filming sometimes brought me to my psychological limits. But those who wish to improve the world must sometimes withstand an ordeal that is not always pleasant. And since victims of abuse are probably often unable to talk about their terrible experiences, I wanted to give them a voice.
Perhaps this film, with its horrific stories, can prompt society to constantly question that which appears to be oh-so-holy, in order ultimately to find a bearable solution for all.
Vorarlberg, Mehrerau Abbey
I can’t take it anymore.
I’ve had it.
Enough of this clerical idiocy.
I would rather compete in an illegal motorbike race against myself. If a tree stands in my path: brake. If a priest stands in my way: accelerate. At least if I am racing against myself, I know I will win.
Six years in the cellar of this lousy Catholic Church are enough! A third of my lifetime to date, wasted by evil. Abbeys – the junkyards of life. Enough, stop, finito!
Salzburg, Styria, Eibiswald
When I published my story in 2009 in the form of an autobiography “Sei lieb zu Berndi” and thus addressed a taboo, many opportunities arose for me to carry out educational work. Interviews, readings, talks and lectures at schools, many affected persons contacted me and spoke about their experiences, sometimes for the first time in their lives. Over the years I heard countless stories, experiences that always reminded me of my own fate. When I received the invitation to co-design the film “The Children Send Their Regards”, I agreed.
I was accustomed to answering questions about my past. But this time it was different. From the outset I was asked to tell my story, after a very short time my past began to catch up with me, and everything was once again there, just as I had experienced it. All of a sudden I was once again the little girl, alone and at their mercy, without any hope of succour or love. I did not expect to have this reaction. Now I realised that all of the injuries and wounds that I had suffered were now breaking out after all those years, and that complete recovery would never be possible. Perhaps precisely for this reason, I will always be willing to speak about my experiences, since my story should not have been in vain.
I wish to thank everyone who allowed me to be part of this film. I understand the film “The Children Send Their Regards” by Patricia Marchart and “Betroffen.at” in the first instance to be educative. The viewer gets an impression of the lives of people who were exposed to physical and emotional violence as children, and of the long-term nature of the experiences, which still greatly dominate the lives of these people to this day. It shows how the responsible bodies, such as the state and the Church, allowed, encouraged and legalised these crimes.
Children were exploited as cheap labour, guinea pigs for the pharmaceutical industry and for the research purposes of doctors, and not least abused as sex objects by perverse creatures from all layers of society. Priests, vicars, cardinals, state prosecutors, judges, politicians, doctors, teachers, educators, foster parents, right up to their own relatives, the list is endless. Interaction between all institutions made it possible to force the children to remain silent.
Many of those affected have not been able to process this martyrdom to this day. They no longer have the strength or energy to lead a normal life. Alcohol and drugs dominated their lives until the yearned-for suicide. Those who survived this Holocaust fight in vain for justice, they continue to be labelled liars. If the evidence is nevertheless overwhelming, the “buck” is passed from one to the other, and finally the “statute of limitation” is conjured out of the air. Neither the politicians nor “Mother Church” are interested in the fact that the wounds have barely closed in all those years and can burst open at any time.
I see the film as a demand and as a warning, that the “State and Church” should finally accept responsibility. Criminally culpable Church personnel must be brought before the secular courts. The “statute of limitation” must be abolished, a deadline that only protects the offenders. No “suspended sentences” for sex offenders, suspended sentences abet new crimes.
Those affected, who are since forced to live in poverty, have the right to a dignified life and consequently to appropriate financial security, rather that undignified handouts from the Klasnic Commission. Great wealth was earned from the suffering of these abused children!
Physical and sexual violence against children is emotional murder, and murder cannot and must not be time-barred!
Salzburg, Michaelbeuern Monastery
I decided to take part in the film immediately after receiving the e-mail from the platform “betroffen.at”. I welcomed the film team into my home, completely without any preconceptions. Both were very pleasant, and I knew that I could work openly and honestly with this team.
My narration of the profound events took many hours, indeed days. I found it difficult to overcome my fears and inner conflicts, to talk about what I had experienced clearly. To see and experience again the old places, rooms and surroundings of the numerous abuses. What happened, what is still the case, what it will be like! The image of the offender, the atrocities, humiliations, desperation in view of the great injustice of the destruction of my life, shaped by the judgement of the Church, state and judiciary on my innocence. All of my confidence, indeed my entire personality was taken, my upstanding character was trodden on disrespectfully and discredited by the Catholic Church.
After many years of fleeing from the inhumane events, I returned to Austria thirty years later. I should have stayed away! Africa, Asia, America would have offered me something like a normal life, free of fear.
Now, when I leave my apartment, I first look fearfully left, right, above and in front, for priests, vicars, nuns and other violent thugs. I like being in the mountains, but every summit crucifix ruins my view of the landscape and of a carefree life.
Thanks to everyone who creates clarity and who remains active in uncovering such violent events.
Vorarlberg, Fischingen (Switzerland)
I found it more difficult than expected to speak in the film about what had happened, even though I do a lot of public relations work. At first I spoke about my time in the home. But soon it was more about the way in which affected persons are dealt with today. And also about the fact that conditions are not so different now than they were before. If there is any sense to what we experienced, then only if something changes in the future. It is impossible to make amends for the crimes, but in order to ensure that something changes legally in my lifetime, and that the Church is brought to justice in all European countries for its crimes, that is the reason why I will always speak up about what I experienced. And yes, I found it very difficult to talk about it, it stirred my emotions so much that I ended up back in hospital with my much too high blood pressure.
For the first time, this film gave us the opportunity to reveal the practices of the Catholic Church, cumulatively and hopefully across many countries. I hope that it will be considered seriously to bring the Church, as offender, before a secular court, just like any other criminal. Furthermore, I want to show that we are all suffering long-term effects, for example my high blood pressure. I can tell it one hundred times that it is all over, and happened a long time ago, but it is still too high, thanks to the medicinal experiments that were conducted on me during my time in the home. My recurring nightmare also don’t care about a statute of limitations. It was emotional murder that was carried out, and the public need to know about it.