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Victims of abuse by the star priest of mass music, against his official anthem interpreted on October 12

“It is an insult”. This is how Pedro Tena defines the fact that the song Death is not the end, composed by Cesáreo Gabaráin, the priest who abused him in the Marists of Chamberí , in Madrid, is the official anthem of the Spanish Armed Forces and the security forces to honor their deceased and continue to be performed in official acts. Among them, in the military parade of the national holiday of the 12 October, this Tuesday. This Basque priest, who died in 1991, is well known throughout the Catholic world for being the great composer of mass music , author of songs like Fisher of men or Together as brothers. From the past month of August, he is accused of abuse in the sixties and seventies by at least other 17 victims, as revealed by EL PAÍS. Most of them are former students of the Madrid school and also of another in Antzuola (Gipuzkoa). Like Tena, three other victims of Gabaráin, the brother of a deceased and the first student who reported him after learning about the abuses, ask that this work be officially stopped at public events. Death is not the end was chosen as the official anthem to honor the fallen of the Spanish Armed Forces in 1981 and is sung massively in a central moment of the acts of the 12 October, the tribute to the monument to those who fell for Spain, in the presence of the King. Felipe VI himself has sung it in previous years.

Song of the hymn ‘Death is not the end ‘during the parade of 12 October of 2018.

Consulted by this newspaper, neither the Ministry of Defense nor the Ministry of the Interior have wanted to give their opinion on this matter, nor have they explained if they are considering withdrawing it as requested some of those affected. The House of the King has also preferred to remain silent and not clarify whether Felipe VI is going to sing it tomorrow, Tuesday. The main political parties have not wanted to demonstrate on the issue either. However, the PSOE already did so in 2014, through a parliamentary question addressed to the Ministry of the Interior. At that time, the accusations of pedophilia, which came to light this summer, were not known, but he already questioned the use of a religious song in official acts of the National Police and asked that it be withdrawn. The Ministry of the Interior then responded that it considered the hymn “a traditional, solemn and worthy way of honoring those who died in the act of service.” Now the PSOE directs that ministry, but has not responded if it continues to consider the song in the same way.

“Because they are state institutions that in principle represent us all , the Armed Forces and the Police should not use a song composed by an accredited pedophile with numerous accusations and victims behind him, ”says Tena. Eduardo Mendoza, the former student of the Chamberí Marists who denounced the priest at school in 1978, believes that “it is something that should be urgently reviewed.” “We must not forget that the work of a pedophile is being used for a public act of the State. And I can assure you that every time it is sung publicly, each of its victims is being re-victimized, ”he says. Above all, because until now the cover-up of what happened has prevailed. After the denunciation of Mendoza and other schoolchildren, the priest was expelled from the school, but the archbishop of Madrid, at that time the cardinal and president of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, Vicente Enrique y Tarancón, transferred him to the parish of Las Nieves, in the Mirasierra neighborhood, in Madrid, and another school, San Fernando. In addition, three months after the complaint, Gabaráin was appointed prelate of His Holiness by John Paul II.

Mendoza, aware of the theory that it is necessary to separate the artist’s work says: “I put an example that is easy to understand. Let’s imagine that this song had been written by a Basque musician, like Gabaráin, and that it had been chosen for that act ‘because of the beauty of its message’. Years later, someone discovers that this Basque musician was an active member of ETA. The question is: would his ‘beautiful’ song continue to be sung at public events? Someone could say that it is not comparable. So, do we take weight off pedophile crimes? Are they less important? While the members of the Armed Forces, starting with the King, sing that beautiful song with emotion, do we forget that its author abused minors thanks to his ecclesiastical condition that gave moral and ethical authority to all, yes, to all his acts in front of his victims? Whoever wants to listen to Gabaráin’s songs, let him do it in private. There he with his conscience. ”

Cesáreo Gabaráin toca el piano en una de las fotografías que acompañaban sus discos de vinilo.
Cesáreo Gabaráin plays the piano in one of the photographs that accompanied his vinyl records.

After the first information published by EL PAÍS in August, the Oregon Catholic Press (OCP), a US entity that has the licenses his compositions, temporarily removed information about the priest from his website and announced that he was allocating the benefits of the rights to an organization that supports victims of pedophilia. In Spain there have been no consequences. The Spanish Episcopal Conference has stated that the Gabaráin scandal will not make his songs, more than 500, stop singing out of respect for the victims in liturgical celebrations. Luis Argüello, spokesman for the bishops, argued: “I think it would be good if in this type of matter we had the ability to distinguish. That is, if this person is a musical composer, to say that his musical work is contaminated by what he could have said or done seems exaggerated to me. Their songs will have to be valued for their musical quality. This type of sentence is typical of medieval times, in which a person by hanging a sanbenito, a sanbenito with justice, a condemnation of social life, his entire family, his entire past, everything that could do. […] We must distinguish between people, because if not in some way it is returning a kind of death penalty for certain types of crimes, death penalty for the dead, moreover. ”

Leonardo Enríquez, former student of Chamberí between 1965 and 1977, explains that whenever he hears the hymn, in his opinion “very nice”, he wonders how it is Perhaps no one has ever spoken of its author: “As a citizen and as a former army officer I find it a shame. In an act where the honor of the fallen is extolled, a hymn created by such a dishonorable person is not acceptable. ” Along the same lines, Javier Gorostidi proposes that the Minister of Defense, Margarita Robles, withdraw this hymn as a tribute to the fallen and that she make public the reason for this performance. “For the victims it would be a small reparation after so many years of hiding,” he opines.

Iñaki Badiola, from 74 years and one of the first victims in the sixties of Gabaráin in Antzuola (Gipuzkoa), feels hurt by the fact that, despite the accusations having come to light, the public authorities do not speak out. “What hurts me the most is that here the city council has not said anything about the matter, after having published its greatness in its day through a book,” he says. He is in favor of suppressing the hymn. Manuel Aguilera, brother of one of Garabáin’s victims, now deceased, affirms that he is not in favor of “eliminating or persecuting the works of people who have committed abuses,” but he believes that in this case it is different. “[La canción] has a spiritual and religious sense. I find it humiliating for the victims of this priest. They should not use it ”, he opines.

Francisco Javier García, victim of the priest in 1973, he still remembers the bewilderment when, while doing military service, he heard that melody at his colonel’s funeral. “I had just started training as a backup sergeant and my captain appointed me to represent the NCOs and suddenly, the little song. I was surprised, ”he says. However, contrary to what other affected people think, García believes that the hymn may be a way “to remind ourselves that the Church conceals predators.” He understands that victims may feel pain when hearing that song at public events, but believes that, in the end, the military will eventually stop using it. “I think that, although it hurts, it is better that it sound and spread who its author was,” he says. Along the same lines is Carlos, another of the students the priest abused in his office: “His music is the character, I don’t think it should be vetoed. If we were to judge and condemn music, works of art or writings for the ethics or morals of their creators, we would miss out on some of the best works of art in the world ”, he says.

According to religious media, Gabaráin composed Death is not the end some time after the organist of his parish, Juan Pedro, of 17 years, passed away. Although there is no further information, it is believed that he wrote it between 1979 and 1980, when he was appointed coadjutor of the Las Nieves parish, after the Marists expelled him from the Chamberí college for abuse. From that moment, and like so many of his other songs, it was sung during mass in churches throughout Spain. José María Sáenz de Tejada, Lieutenant General, heard it for the first time at a funeral in 1981. It was then that he proposed that this song be adapted to be used as an official hymn to the Fallen by Spain. The composer Tomás Asiain was in charge of the military version. In it, the word “brother” was changed to “partner.”

If you know of any case of sexual abuse that has not been seen the light, write us with your complaint to abusos@elpais.es

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