Germany’s Catholic Church was Tuesday due to confess to thousands of cases of sexual assault against children, but victims blasted it for failing to reveal the true scale of the abuse and end decades of impunity.
The Church will release a damning report showing that in Germany alone, almost 3,700 minors were assaulted between 1946 and 2014.
The report’s authors say the real figure was likely four times higher.
Commissioned by the German Bishops’ Conference, it is the latest in a series of reports on sexual crimes and cover-ups worldwide spanning decades that has shaken the Catholic Church.
Victims said it falls short of what is needed to flush out perpetrators.
They urged the Church to bring in independent experts for a thorough audit, adding that victims should be offered compensation.
“The system of abuse, transfers (of offending priests) and cover-ups cannot be mapped out” by a study that had access only to available personnel documents, said the victims’ association Eckiger Tisch.
“We are not given names of perpetrators. There are no names given of the responsible bishops who have perfected the system of covering up sexual attacks over decades.”
– ‘Decades of cover-ups’ –
Justice Minister Katarina Barley urged the Church to “take responsibility for decades of concealment, cover-ups and denials” and to work with state prosecutors to bring every known case to justice.
The independent commissioner for child sex abuse issues, Johannes-Wilhelm Roerig, recommended state authorities step in to clear up the crimes and ensure victims get access to Church files and compensation.
The state “has a duty of care for all children, including those who are in the care of the Church”, he told the Sueddeutsche newspaper.
Details of the report were leaked to the media this month.
The German Bishops’ Conference was due to officially release the research paper at the start of a four-day meeting in the western city of Fulda.
Opening the meeting, conference head Cardinal Reinhard Marx, said: “Our job is to set the tone for a new start.”
– Predator priests –
According to the study, 1,670 clergymen in Germany committed some form of sexual attack against 3,677 minors, mostly boys, between 1946 and 2014, Spiegel Online reported.
They intimidated their victims into keeping quiet, it said.
More than half of the victims were 13 years old or younger, the study concluded, after examining 38,000 documents from the 27 German dioceses.
Researchers from three universities who carried out the survey warned that the true scale of the abuse was far greater, as many documents had been “destroyed or manipulated”.
Predator priests were often transferred to another parish, which was not warned about their criminal history.
Only about one in three were subject to disciplinary hearings by the Church, and most got away with minimal punishment, said Die Zeit weekly. Only 38 percent were prosecuted by civil courts.