BERLIN — A study commissioned by the German bishops’ conference reports the sexual abuse of thousands of children by priests and religious in that country over a period of 70 years. The report was scheduled to be released later this month, but was leaked Wednesday to German media.
The report was commissioned by the German bishops’ conference and scheduled to be presented Sept. 25 at the autumn plenary session of the German bishops, as CNA Deutsch reported.
Its methodology is substantially different from that of the Pennsylvania grand jury report.
The study documents sexual offenses against “3677 predominantly male minors” between 1946 and 2014, Der Spiegel reported.
“1670 clerics are accused of the deeds,” the German magazine reported, saying researchers had “examined and evaluated more than 38,000 personnel and other files from 27 German dioceses.”
Der Spiegel reported that, in many cases, evidence was found by researchers to have been “destroyed or manipulated.”
“We are aware of the extent of sexual abuse that is proven by the results of the study. It is oppressive and shameful for us,” Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier said in a statement Wednesday. The bishop is commissioner for questions of sexual abuse in the Church and for questions of the protection of children and minors of the German bishops’ conference.
“Four years ago, we commissioned the study, and we bishops in particular are facing up to the results. The first step will be the assembly in Fulda.”
Bishop Ackermann also criticized the leak of the study.
In a statement from the German bishops’ conference, Bishop Ackermann said: “I regret that the study, which has remained confidential so far, and is the result of four years of research on the subject of ‘sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests, deacons and male religious in the area of the German bishops’ conference’ was published today.”
“Especially with regard to those affected by sexual abuse, the irresponsible advance publication of the study is a severe blow,” he said.
“This is all the more exasperating, since not even the members of the German bishops’ conference so far know the entire study,” he added.
According to the German bishops’ conference, the aim of the study, in which all 27 dioceses of Germany took part, was “to obtain more clarity and transparency about this dark side in our Church, not only for the sake of those affected, but also in order to be able to see [the crimes] for ourselves and do everything possible to ensure that they do not repeat themselves.”
Bishop Ackermann said: “We are concerned about a responsible and professional approach to the problem. I am convinced that the study is a comprehensive and careful survey that offers figures and analyses from which we will continue to learn. This also applies to the findings that provide a deeper insight into the actions of perpetrators and the behavior of Church leaders over the past decades. Once again, I stress that the study is a measure that we owe not only to the Church, but first and foremost to those affected.”