An attorney has indicated the number of children physically or sexually abused by priests while serving in a choir run by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s brother at their Roman Catholic school in the German city of Regensburg totals 231. That’s more than three times as many cases as had been reported previously by the church.
Ulrich Weber, a lawyer hired by the church, announced the new cases Friday in conjunction with his investigation into the scandal centered on the Domspatzen (Cathedral Sparrows), which is the official choir at the Regensburg Cathedral dedicated to St. Peter in Bavaria state. The first allegations of sexual abuse there were made public in 2010 when a well-known composer named Franz Wittenbrink told the German magazine Der Spiegel he had been abused while enrolled at the boarding school.
Weber said the reported sexual abuse encompassed offenses such as fondling and rape, while the reported physical abuse included beatings and the withholding of food. He said victims named 10 perpetrators, according to Agence France-Presse.
The alleged abuse occurred between 1953 and 1992. For 30 of those years, the choir was run by the older brother of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who resigned as pontiff in 2013 due to declining health.
Overall, 2,100 students participated in the choir during that period. Weber said he expects as many as one-third of its participants may have been abused over the years. Last year, the church began paying compensation of 2,500 euros ($2,730) to each victim.
The famous group of boys and young men is more than 1,000 years old. Its members sing at the Regensburg Cathedral each Sunday and also perform elsewhere around the world.
Globally, at least 3,400 allegations of sexual abuse have been made against Catholic clergy. Benedict defrocked 384 accused priests in the final two years of his reign. Meanwhile, the church spent more than $150 million in just one year to investigate the claims.