In a final report released on Tuesday, the latest sex abuse scandal to plague the Catholic Church involves 547 boys from a choir school in Germany.
- 547 boys, 47 alleged perpetrators – unlikely to be charged
- Victims recall “the worst time of their lives, marked by fear, violence and helplessness”
- Rape, sexual assaults, severe beatings, food deprivation
- School likened to “prison, hell or a concentration camp”
- Blame laid on Georg Ratzinger, elder brother of former pope Benedict, for turning a blind eye
Staggering stats elsewhere:
- Ireland – 14,500 under-aged victims
- USA – 100,000 cases involving 4% of priests, several billion dollars spent on legal fees
- Australia – 4,440 cases reported, 7% of priests committed paedophilic acts
- The Netherlands – several tens of thousands of victims, 800 suspects identified
- Belgium – hundreds of complaints, $4.8m paid in compensation
Most notable in the Hall of Shame:
- Irish Cardinal Sean Brady – stepped down for mishandling child abuse allegations
- Irish Father Brendan Smyth – admitted to 74 counts of child sexual abuse
- US Cardinal Bernard Law, Cardinal Roger Mahony, Archbishop John Clayton Nienstedt, Bishop Robert Finn – forced to resign for protecting paedo priests
- Australian Cardinal George Pell, third highest member of the Vatican hierarchy – charged in June 2017 for historical sexual offences
- Fact: So great is the extent of the abuse and cover-ups involving the Catholic Church around the world that the full extent may never be revealed.
The Regensburger Domspatzen (Cathedral Sparrows), a 1,000-year-old cathedral choir in Bavaria, was in 2010 dragged into the massive sexual abuse scandal to rock the Catholic Church in recent years.
Many victims remembered their time in the school as “the worst time of their lives, marked by fear, violence and helplessness”, said lawyer Ulrich Weber, who was appointed by the diocese to investigate the cases.
Presenting his final report on abuses between 1945 and the early 1990s, Weber said he had uncovered 67 cases of sexual abuse and 500 cases of other physical violence, with some former singers having fallen victim to both.
This more than doubled the 231 reported abuse cases he had uncovered through interviews by January 2016, when he said victims had spoken of rape, sexual assaults, severe beatings and food deprivation.
According to Weber, 547 boys suffered sexual or physical abuse in what victims have likened to “prison, hell or a concentration camp”.
The lawyer pointed to a “culture of silence” and placed part of the blame for the situation on the school’s former choir master Georg Ratzinger, the elder brother of former pope Benedict.
As head of the choir from 1964 to 1994, Ratzinger could be “blamed for looking the other way and failing to intervene”, said Weber.
Ratzinger, 93, has denied knowledge and said that the alleged sexual abuse was “never discussed” while he ran the choir.
Weber said that 49 alleged perpetrators had been identified but they were not expected to face criminal charges as the alleged crimes took place too long ago.
The victims are now expected to receive 20,000 euros ($23,000) each in compensation.
The German scandal is one of several to have rocked the Catholic Church in recent years, with the Vatican saying at least 3,400 credible cases were referred to it between 2004 and 2014.
The full scale of the abuse and cover-ups involving the Catholic Church around the world is not yet known. It is likely the full extent may never be revealed.
The cases featured below are only some of the major ones that made the news in the past few years alone.
Accusations against Catholic institutions in Ireland began to emerge early in the millennium and involved abuse spanning several decades prior to that. The number of under-aged victims was estimated at around 14,500. Several bishops and priests accused of committing or covering up the abuse were punished.
In 2014, Cardinal Sean Brady stepped down with an emotional plea for forgiveness. He was accused of mishandling child abuse allegations during a probe into notorious paedophile Father Brendan Smyth, who admitted to 74 counts of child sexual abuse and was finally convicted in the 1990s. Smyth died one month into his sentence.
Between 1950 and 2013, the Catholic Church in the US received 17,000 complaints of sexual abuse involving 6,400 clerics between 1950 and 1980.
In 2012, specialists in contact with the Vatican mooted the staggering figure of 100,000 cases of child sex abuse in the US.
Faced with accusations concerning four percent of its priests, the US church has already spent several billion dollars on legal fees.
Among the senior church members forced to resign for protecting paedophile priests were Cardinal Bernard Law in Boston, Cardinal Roger Mahony in Los Angeles, Archbishop John Clayton Nienstedt in Minnesota and Bishop Robert Finn in Kansas City.
A public enquiry begun in 2013 found that 4,440 presumed cases of paedophilia had been reported to the Catholic Church in Australia. Seven percent of priests were presumed to have committed paedophilic acts but the probe was not followed by official action.
The third highest member of the Vatican hierarchy, Australian Cardinal George Pell, was charged in June 2017 for historical sexual offences.
In late 2011, a study found that several tens of thousands of minors had been sexually abused within the Dutch Catholic Church institutions between 1945 and 2010. Some 800 suspects have been identified.
In 2010, the bishop of Bruges, Ranger Vangheluwe, resigned after acknowledging sex abuse of two nephews.
Since 2012, the Catholic Church in Belgium has received hundreds of complaints and paid almost 4.13 million euros ($4.8 million) in compensation.
Pope Francis has approved the creation of an internal church tribunal to punish bishops who cover up sex abuse by priests but abuse survivors are sceptical that much will change.