Ulrich Weber, a lawyer hired by the Catholic church, said that 231 children were physically or sexually abused by priests while serving in a choir run by Pope Emeritus Benedict's brother Georg Ratzinger at a Catholic school in Regensburg, Germany. The new number is more than three times as many cases as the the church had previously reported.
Weber announced the new cases on Jan. 8 as part of an ongoing investigation into the scandal concerning the choir, known as Domspatzen, International Business Times reports. The Domspatzen is a famous group of boys and young men that has traveled around the world to sing for more than 1,000 years. It is the official choir of St. Peter's Cathedral in Bavaria, Germany.
The first allegations of sexual abuse in the Domspatzen were made public in 2010, when composer Franz Wittenbrink told German magazine Spiegel that he had been abused while in the choir, according to New Europe. Wittenbrink told Spiegel that there was a "system of sadistic punishments connected to sexual pleasure" in the school. The alleged abuse included cases of fondling and rape, as well as physical abuse, such withholding food and giving out beatings.
Ratzinger led the choir from 1964 to 1994, and the reported abuse cases occurred between 1953 and 1992, International Business Times notes.
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The victims have reportedly named 10 alleged perpetrators. Overall, 2,100 students were enrolled in the choir during the period that the abuse reportedly occurred. Weber said that he expects as many as a third of the boys involved in the choir may have been abused. Last year the church began paying around $2,700 to each victim.
Around the world, there have been at least 3,400 claims of abuse made against the Catholic church. Pope Benedict XVI defrocked 384 priests because of the cases, and the church has spent more then $150 million in just one year to investigate the abuse.
Weber said that he "must assume" Ratzinger had at least some knowledge of the child abuse, though Ratzinger is not accused of committing any of the alleged crimes, according to New Europe.