The new report from the University of Münster found that nearly 200 clergy have committed nearly 6,000 cases of abuse.
Researchers believe the true death toll could be much higher — up to 5,000 to 6,000 victims — due to unreported cases, the report’s authors said at a press conference where they presented their findings on Monday.
The Bishop of Munster Felix Jane, who was appointed to the post in 2008, received the university’s results on Monday and said he would issue a public statement on Friday.
CNN has reached out separately to the Vatican for comment.
Historian Natalie Boroznik, who took part in the study, accused priests of committing an average of two single assaults on victims per week, but said the number could be higher.
“Three-quarters of the victims were boys between the ages of 10 and 14,” Boroznik said. Victims were attached to the church through altar boy services, church youth camps, or when receiving sacraments.
The researchers further claim that bishops in the diocese were aware of the rampant abuse over decades but did not act, and repeatedly employed abusive priests in pastoral care, allowing for more work.
According to the study, only 12% of suspected perpetrators have been turned away. It was common practice to deal with clergy implicated in abuses either to blame them or send them to a monastery for short periods, but most of the accused perpetrators were sent to another parish where they continued to commit their crimes, researchers said.
They added that about 50 of the accused priests are still alive today.
The study also found that 43 percent of the victims surveyed reported severe physical violence and had to endure “significant psychological consequences” such as anxiety disorders and depression. Historians have also noted several suicide attempts among the victims, allegedly resulting from abuse.
The new report is the latest in allegations of widespread child sexual abuse in the German Catholic Church in recent years.
In January, a church-commissioned report on abuses by Catholic clergy in the Diocese of Munich and Freising concluded that former Pope Benedict XVI. He learned of the existence of abusive priests during his time there from 1977 to 1982, but he did not act. A month after the report was published, the retired pope requested pardon but denied any wrongdoing.
A 2018 report commissioned by the German Bishops’ Conference found that between 1946 and 2014 at least 1,670 clergy were involved in at least 3,677 cases of clergy abuse of children.
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