The german-brite christoph rohl has made the abuse of children and adolescents his main film topic. He made a documentary and a feature film about the abuse at the odenwald school.
In his new documentary, he addresses the gross abuse scandal in the catholic church. It is a portrait of the german pope benedict XVI., about joseph ratzinger.
How did it come to pass that from pope benedict XVI. So fascinated are they that they made a film about him?
This is a very interesting question and the answer is not so simple. I had made a film on the subject of abuse at the odenwald school and in this context I met victims from the catholic context. We thought about whether it would be possible to make a similar film about the systemic origins of abuse in the catholic church. But where to start? Then I had the idea of making a film not about the catholic church itself, but specifically about joseph ratzinger. As if under a burning glass, I saw in him the potential to go beyond his private life and lifestyle and make a universal statement about the institutional church: about its culture, its way of thinking, its motivations, and its way of acting. This has to do with his understanding of the church ? And with the church's absolute claim to truth, to which ratzinger subscribed and which he somehow also failed to live up to. Whoever has such a claim to truth feels called upon to protect this truth against those who think differently. In my film the victims of this system, whose truths were denied by it, come to speak.
They worked on the film for several years. Why so long?
As an englishman far away from the church, I really had nothing to do with catholicism. I really knew very little. And I had to acquire all this, all this knowledge – but also the whole culture, the mentality. It was very important to me that I feel myself in this world and also reflect the beauty of it in my film. My film is not about faith either. I myself do not believe in god and never went to church. But that others are believers and go to church – I have no problem with that at all. I do not want to eliminate religion from the world.
From this introspective perspective, what is your opinion of benedict XVI's pontificate?.?
For me he failed. He is a failed pope.
He had the goal to bring the faith into the world and to bring back the church to the age of the people. But he will be remembered for the time when thousands of cases of child abuse within the catholic church became known ? And at the same time for trying to cover him up. At the end of the 1980s he knew that there were abuses in the church, when several cases in the USA came to light. Soon after, scandals in other countries became public: in canada, ireland and australia. These scandals made headlines for months and shook confidence in the church. Of course, the vatican has also taken note of it. It was not a secret.
Why has ratzinger come so far from your point of view??
Joseph ratzinger was prefect of the congregation for 23 years. So for a quarter of a century he held the most powerful position in the vatican next to the pope. He knew the system better than anyone. And he knew all the mannerists who went to the polls. As john paul II. Died, he preached the sermon at his funeral mass. Then, one day before the conclave, he gave his famous speech "dictatorship of relativism", in which he again demonized all ideas that were incompatible with catholic doctrine. This went down well with the conservative cardinals, who, like ratzinger, saw the church threatened in an increasingly secularized world. That will probably have been the reason why he was elected pope the next day.
Do you see parallels between the rather left-wing odenwald school and the arch-conservative catholic church??
Both are ultimately authoritarian structures. From my point of view, the odenwald school was only democratic in its outward appearance. In truth, it was a system in which weak children were made subservient to the authoritarian principal gerold becker and his accomplices and were left defenceless. Another parallel is that in both institutions there was and is a conviction that we are the good ones and that our mission must not be endangered under any circumstances.
About him: christoph rohl was born in brighton, britain, studied german language and literature and history in manchester, and then studied directing and screenwriting at the german film and television academy in berlin. His documentary about sexual abuse at the odenwald school and the feature film "die auserwahlten", which deals with the same subject, received considerable attention. Rohl himself had worked for several years as an english tutor at the odenwald school.