5,700 acts of sexual abuse committed by German Catholic priests: assessment

At least 600 young people have been documented as having been abused by Catholic priests in the German diocese of Münster, but the actual number of victims could be 10 times higher, according to a report published on Monday.

The diocese has official records of 610 victims of abuse, according to the Münster University report, about a third more than indicated by a previous study from 2018.

However, historian Natalie Powroznik, who was involved in the study, said the true number of victims could be much higher, with “around 5,000 to 6,000 girls and boys affected” in the diocese.

According to the report, at least 5,700 individual acts of sexual abuse were committed by a total of 196 clergy, including 183 priests.

Five percent of the clergy involved turned out to be serial offenders who had victimized more than ten people, and less than ten percent had faced legal consequences.

At the height of abuse in the 1960s and 1970s, there were an average of two cases a week in the diocese, according to the report.

Three out of four victims were boys, the majority between the ages of 10 and 14, with many acts committed against altar boys or in children’s and youth camps.

The study reported considerable psychological consequences for victims reaching adulthood, including depression and suicidal thoughts, with indications of attempted suicide in 27 cases.

Widespread abuse

The Bishop of Münster, Felix Genn, is to comment in detail on the study on Friday.

The authors accuse Genn, who has been bishop of Münster since 2009, of failing to take action against the attackers.

In an initial response on Monday, Genn said he would “naturally accept responsibility for the mistakes that I myself have made regarding sexual abuse.”

The German Catholic Church has been rocked by a series of reports in recent years that have revealed widespread abuse of children by clergy.

A study commissioned by the German Bishops’ Conference in 2018 concluded that 1,670 clergy in the country committed some form of sexual assault against 3,677 minors between 1946 and 2014.

However, the actual number of victims would be much higher.

In January, a report in the Diocese of Munich and Freising found evidence of sexually abusive behavior in 235 people it investigated, including 173 priests, while there were at least 497 victims.

The report also revealed that former Pope Benedict XVI knowingly failed to take action to arrest four priests accused of child sex abuse in the 1980s when he was Archbishop of Munich.

Another report published last year revealed the extent of abuse by priests in the main German diocese of Cologne.


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Post expires at 7:25am on Friday June 24th, 2022