Pope Francis calls emergency meeting on abuse

Meeting of bishops in February called as report on abuse by German clerics emerges

Pope Francis has called an emergency meeting of senior bishops from across the world next February as a new investigation uncovered evidence of at least 3,677 cases of clerical sexual abuse in the German church over seven decades.

The most recent cases date from 2010, the report says, suggesting sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clerics in Germany is not a "historical phenomenon but . . . continues to take place".

The study covers 38,000 church files from 27 German dioceses with indications that 1,670 Germans clerics abused mostly young boys, of whom up to a half less than 13 years old at the time.

In the 350-page report leaked on Wednesday, researchers collated 3,677 cases of clerical sexual abuse in church records – including 600 incidents of rape.


The meeting of bishops' conference heads also follows the recent papal visit to Ireland being overshadowed by the legacy of clerical abuse and the release of a report on the cover-up of clerical abuse in Philadelphia.

After studying the period from 1946 to 2014, the report’s authors described the abuse numbers as a “low estimate” and suggested clerical sexual abuse in Germany “continues to take place”.

The estimated number of abusing priests corresponds to 5.1 per cent of all active priests in German parishes, the report says, with many transferred following abuse allegations without their new parish being informed.

Such action by German bishops suggested they “recklessly or consciously accepted” the related risk, the report said, noting bishops reported just 7 per cent of cases to police.

The report was commissioned four years ago by the German bishops' conference after a wave of abuse revelations sparked by the head of a Jesuit school in Berlin.

Germany’s leading lay church group described the abuse report findings as “the tip of the iceberg” while critics have questioned the study’s independence. Researchers were not allowed view church files directly and instead evaluated questionnaires completed by church staff who viewed files.

Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier, abuse investigator in the German Catholic church, described the findings of "depressing and shameful".

On Thursday, US cardinals and bishops meet the pope to discuss allegations that he rehabilitated a top American cardinal sanctioned by Pope Benedict XVI for having molested and harassed adult seminarians.

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin