Lawyer alleges 231 children abused at German Catholic choir

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BERLIN (AP) — More than 200 children may have been abused, some of them sexually, by adults working with a Catholic children's choir in southern Germany, a lawyer tasked with investigating the allegations said Friday.

Ulrich Weber said the 231 alleged victims included 50 who made "plausible" claims of sexual abuse at the Regensburger Domspatzen boys' choir and two associated boarding schools between 1953 and 1992.

Weber, who was commissioned by the Catholic diocese of Regensburg, said that former Domspatzen conductor Georg Ratzinger must have known of at least some of the abuses. Ratzinger, the older brother of Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, has previously denied knowledge of the incidents.

Allegations of abuse surfaced several years ago, at a time when the Catholic Church's handling of such claims was being widely scrutinized following a series of high-profile cases in Europe and the United States.

Weber said his eight-month investigation involved interviews with more than 140 people, including 70 alleged victims. He concluded that almost a third of all pupils at two primary feeder schools for the choir, one in Etterzhausen and one in Pielenhofen, suffered some form of abuse.

The sexual assaults ranged from stroking to rape, he said.

"The events were known internally and criticized, but they had almost no consequences," Weber said.

Most of the alleged crimes have passed the statute of limitations for criminal complaints by now.

The diocese published the interim report on its website Friday, along with a year-old sermon by Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer in which he expressed regret for the abuse the children allegedly suffered.

The diocese has previously offered to pay 2,500 euros in damages to each of the victims.

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