Catholic Church in Germany Admits ‘Shameful’ Legacy of Abuse After Study Leaked

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The German Bishops' Conference commissioned the "strictly confidential" study and Cardinal Reinhard Marx, its chairman, is expected to present its findings later this month, Spiegel said.

About one in six of cases documented involved rape and three quarters of the victims were abused in a church or through a pastoral relationship with the abuser.

Ackermann said in the statement that the aim of the study was to "gain more clarity and transparency about this dark side of our church, for the sake of those affected, but also to see for ourselves the wrongdoings and to ensure this can not be repeated".

Gaenswein said the recent news of the sexual abuse and its victims from the USA were "even more bad than the sudden collapse of all the churches of Pennsylvania together with the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington", according to the AP.

Most of the victims were boys, and more than half were aged 13 or younger.

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The commission, which was funded by the German Bishops' Conference, stated that "3,677 mostly male minors" had been victims of sexual abuse by 1,670 members of the clergy.

He said the aim of the study was to shed light on "this dark side of our Church, for the sake of those affected, but also for us ourselves to see the errors and to do everything to prevent them from being repeated".

Der Spiegel, quoting from an executive summary that is included in the leaked official report, wrote that there was evidence that some files and archives had been "destroyed or manipulated".

"The study is a course of action which we owe not only to the Church, but above all and foremost to those affected", Ackermann said.

The Church had planned to offer counselling helplines around the official publication date of the report for people who are affected by it, he said.

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Speaking on behalf of the Conference, Bishop Ackermann said that, while he regretted that the study had been leaked, he was convinced its survey were comprehensive and thorough. Numerous priests caught abusing had recently been transferred to other parishes and a mere one-third of accused members of the clergy were investigated by the Catholic Church.

Francis will meet the presidents of the Catholic bishops conferences from around the world in the Vatican from February 21-24, according to a Vatican statement on Wednesday.

The Vatican did not immediately respond to Spiegel's account of the report.

The damning German study is the latest in a series of blows to the Roman Catholic Church.

Pope Francis has also found himself embroiled in the worldwide sex abuse scandal after conservative US Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano last month claimed the pontiff had personally ignored abuse allegations against prominent US cardinal Theodore McCarrick for five years.

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It came after a grand jury report detailed seven decades of abuse in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. The views expressed therein are not necessarily those of, its sponsors or advertisers.

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