(BERLIN) – A report on sexual abuse within the Catholic Church in Germany says that 3,677 people were abused by clergy between 1946 and 2014, two leading German media said on Wednesday.
SPIEGEL ONLINE and DIE ZEIT said that the report, which they received on behalf of the German Bishops' Conference and conducted research at three universities, concludes that more than half of the victims were 13 or younger and most were boys. Every sixth case involved rape and at least 1,670 clergy were involved, both reported weekly. Time wrote that 969 victims of abuse were ministrants.
The report also states that the actual number of victims was probably much higher, according to a study by experts from the Universities of Giessen, Heidelberg and Mannheim.
The German Bishops' Conference said in a written response some hours later that they regretted the expiry of the report, but that the study confirmed "the extent of sexual abuse".
"It is depressing and shameful for us," said Bishop Stephan Ackermann. He did not explain the results of the report, but said the Catholic group would present the study on September 25, as originally planned, with the authors.
Die Zeit wrote that researchers were not allowed to look at the original church records, but had to send questionnaires to the dioceses, who then provided the information.
In their conclusions, the researchers write that there was evidence that some files were manipulated or destroyed, many cases were not held accountable and that suspects – especially priests – were simply transferred to other dioceses without informing the churches about their past were.
The Catholic Church has long struggled with sexual abuse by its clergy.
In 2010, the German church was shaken by a sex abuse scandal, triggered by the head of a Jesuit school in Berlin, which publicized the decades-long sexual abuse of high school students by clerics. After that, a whole wave of victims who were sexually abused by clergymen spoke across the country.
An investigation in the United States last month found rampant sexual abuse of more than 1,000 children by about 300 Catholic priests in Pennsylvania.
Earlier this week, the Vatican said it was preparing "necessary clarifications" about allegations that Vatican leaders, including Pope Francis, were covering up the sexual misconduct of a disgraced American ex-cardinal.
Also on Wednesday, the Vatican said it will call on presidents of all episcopal conferences around the world to hold a summit in February to prevent the abuse of clerical sex and the protection of children.