At least 231 members of a Catholic boys' choir in Germany were physically abused over four decades—largely while the choir was conducted by the brother of former Pope Benedict XVI, the New York Times reports. That number comes from Ulrich Weber, a lawyer hired by the Regensburger Domspatzen choir to investigate abuse allegations that arose in 2010, according to AFP. Previously, the local Catholic Diocese had capped the number of victims at 72 and offered $2,700 in compensation, the Times reports. According to AFP, the abuse—which included "severe beatings and food deprivation"—started as early as 1945 and lasted until 1992. Weber says at least 40 of the 231 cases are instances of sexual abuse, including rape, the Times reports.
Some victims spoke of up to 10 adults abusing young members of the 1,000-year-old choir, with one former member describing a “system of sadistic punishments connected to sexual pleasure," AFP reports. Weber estimates that one-in-three choir members were abused in one way or another, according to the Times. He says most of that abuse was at the hands of the director of a school attached to the choir. Rev. Georg Ratzinger—the older brother of the former pope—conducted the choir from 1964 to 1994, and Weber says he "must assume" Ratzinger knew about the abuse. Ratzinger was on the board overseeing the school's director, and there was an investigation into abuse in 1987. Weber says there are likely more victims who haven't come forward. AFP reports most of the crimes are now too old to prosecute. (Read more Germany stories.)