At least 610 children have been documented as having been sexually abused by catholic priests between 1945 and 2020 in the diocese of the West German city of Münster, according to a study published recently.
The new report from the University of Münster found nearly 200 members of the clergy committed nearly 6,000 instances of abuse.
Researchers believe the true number of victims could be much higher – up to between 5,000 and 6,000 additional victims – due to unreported cases, the report’s authors said at a press conference outlining their findings. Monday.
Münster Bishop Felix Genn, who was appointed to the post in 2008, received the university’s findings on Monday and said he would make a public statement on Friday.
Historian Natalie Powroznik, who participated in the study, accused priests of an average of two individual acts of abuse against victims per week, but said the number could also be higher.
“Three-quarters of the victims were boys between the ages of 10 and 14,” Powroznik also said. Victims were connected to the church through the service of altar servers, church youth camps or when receiving the holy sacraments.
The researchers further allege that bishops in the diocese over the decades were aware of the widespread abuse, but failed to act and repeatedly used abusive clergy in pastoral care, allowing other acts to occur.
According to the study, only 12% of alleged offenders were fired. A common practice for dealing with clergy involved in abuse was to either reprimand them or send them for short stays in a monastery, but most of the accused abusers were sent to another parish where they prosecuted. their crimes, researchers said.
Today, around 50 of the accused priests are still alive, they added.
The study also found that the 43% of victims surveyed reported severe physical abuse and had to endure “substantial consequences” psychologically, such as anxiety disorders and depression. Historians have also noted several suicide attempts among the victims believed to be due to the abuse.
The new report is the latest among allegations of a legacy of widespread child sexual abuse in the German Catholic Church in recent years.
In January, a Report commissioned by the Church in abuse by Catholic clergy in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising concluded that former Pope Benedict XVI knew of abusive priests during his time there from 1977 to 1982 but failed to act. A month after the report was published, the retired pope asked for forgiveness but denied any wrongdoing.
A 2018 report commissioned by the German Bishops’ Conference found that at least 1,670 clergy were involved in at least 3,677 cases of child sexual abuse by clergy between 1946 and 2014.