A report leaked by two German media outlets, Der Spiegel and Die Zeit, on Sept. 12 found that the German Catholic Church covered up at least 3,677 alleged cases of child sexual abuse by at least 1,670 clergymen from 1946 to 2014.
Most of the victims were younger than 14 years old. Most were boys.
In many cases, according to Der Spiegel reporter Walter Mayr, “the accused clergymen were moved to another location, without the new parish being given ‘the pertinent information’ about the abuser.”
Out of the 1,670 alleged abusers, the Church only laicized 41 priests and excommunicated 81, and only placed drastic sanctions on 7.8% of the abusers, according to LifeSiteNews.
As LifeSiteNews wrote, “The report shows that many abusing priests were simply transferred to other parishes and that only one-third of them were ever investigated by the Church.”
According to Die Zeit reporter Evelyn Finger, the Church’s chosen punishments were “less than fitting.”
Finger said that the Church “chose rather soft punishments such as early retirement, interdiction to celebrate Mass, therapy, leave of absence, reprimand, low fees, or just simply retreats.”
The report also stated that “the majority of the abusers did not show signs of repentance.”
Furthermore, there may be more than 1,670 abusers. Finger said that “behind the most important numbers which have been listed here, there stands the invisible ‘at least.’”
“The truth is much worse,” she added.
Finger reported that “up to 8% of the whole clergy” was found to be abusers.
The German Bishops’ Conference funded the 350-page study, which was conducted by a research team of seven secular scientists from three German universities. The research covers all 27 German dioceses.
LifeSiteNews reported that the research team investigated “38,000 personnel and other files; they also conducted many interviews.”
The purpose of the study was “to determine the frequency of sexual abuse of minors by clerics in the area of responsibility of the German Bishops’ Conference,” according to the report itself.
Chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference Cardinal Reinhard Marx had planned to release the report on Sept. 25, but it was leaked several days earlier.
Members of the German press and of the research team have said that the study was not conducted independently of the Church.
According to Finger, “none of the scientists ever had in their hands files from the Church’s archives. That is why this study is not really independent. The institution that had to be investigated controlled the investigation.”
The research team said that they “did not have access to the original files of the Catholic Church. All archives and files of the dioceses had been investigated only by diocesan personnel or by law firms hired by the dioceses.”
LifeSiteNews reported that Finger said the German bishops “even tried to gain the right to forbid the publication of the research, should there arise ‘a serious reason.’”
Additionally, according to the final report, “in some cases, there were to be found clear indications that files had been manipulated” and that “files or parts of files pertaining to sexual abuse of minors had been destroyed at an earlier time.”
The German Catholic Church issued an apology on Sept. 25 for its role in the sexual abuse scandal.