Thousands of sex abuse cases in German Catholic Church – report
More than half of the victims were younger than 13 and predominantly male. The study’s findings were based on documented cases that occurred over more than six decades.
A study commissioned by the German Bishops Conference examined 3,677 cases of abuse allegedly perpetrated by clergy nationwide, German magazine Der Spiegel reported on Wednesday. The universities of Giessen, Heidelberg and Mannheim were involved in the research, which implicated 1,670 priests in sexual abuse spanning from 1946 to 2014.
The report comes amidst a resurfacing of abuse and cover-up allegations against the Catholic Church around the world. Pope Francis has apologized and pledged to support victims in their search for justice, but he has also been singled out for inaction against abuser priests in the past.
The victims in Germany were predominantly male and more than half of them were 13 years of age or younger. Every sixth case involved a rape, and in three-quarters of the cases the victim and perpetrator knew each other through the church.
‘Dismayed and ashamed’
“We know the extent of the sexual abuse that has been demonstrated by the study. We are dismayed and ashamed by it,” said Bishop Stephan Ackermann on behalf of the Bishop’s Conference.
The purpose of the study, Ackermann said, was to shine a light on “this dark side of our Church, for the sake of those affected, but also for us ourselves to see the errors and to do everything to prevent them from being repeated.”
More cases could exists, the study cautions, noting that the figures represent a conservative estimate. German newspaper Die Zeit reported that researchers were not allowed to look at original church files but relied on information provided by the dioceses.
In many cases, files containing information about the accusers were “destroyed or manipulated,” contributing to the difficulty in assessing the extent of the abuse.
The study warned that there was no reason to believe that sexual abuse of minors by Catholic Church clergy was a thing of the past, as continued abuse was still occurring in 2014, the last year of the investigative period.