A new report details the grim, familiar pattern of sexual abuse at the Catholic Church—this time, in Germany

Cardinals at the German Bishops’ Conference in 2014.
Cardinals at the German Bishops’ Conference in 2014.
Image: Reuters/Ina fassbender
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From Australia to Chile to the US, the Catholic Church’s child sex abuse scandals keep piling up, stoking outrage not just about the crimes, but also about the extent of the coverups by church officials.

Today, the same grim patterns and depressing details uncovered elsewhere emerged in Germany. According to a confidential study commissioned by the German Bishops conference, seen by Der Spiegel news magazine, German priests sexually abused 3,677 minors between 1946 and 2014. The study, carried out by three German universities, is due to be presented by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, chairman of German Bishops’ Conference, later this month.

It found that 1,670 clerics and priests from 27 German dioceses were involved in the abuse, that the victims were mostly young males, and that the majority were under the age of 13 when they were abused.

According to the report, half of the cases in the German study would not have come to light had the victim not made a claim for compensation, as the personnel files of the accused didn’t hold any information about abuse, and in many cases they were “destroyed or manipulated.” The study found that accused clerics were “noticeably often” transferred to another place without the host community being told about the allegations against them.

The extent of the abuse, the coverups, and the timespan mirrors a report presented to a Pennsylvania grand jury in August. That report uncovered more than 1,000 child sex-abuse offenses (paywall) by 300 priests in six of its eight dioceses going back 70 years. One month before, in July, the former archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, resigned over after allegations that he had sexually abused young priests and minors over the course of decades.

Sexual abuse scandals have become the defining feature of Pope Francis’s papacy. Beyond releasing a letter in August acknowledging and condemning the church’s long-running failure to prevent abuse, the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics has appeared to stall, mostly issuing platitudes.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, a former Vatican ambassador to the US, last month claimed he had told the pope about the allegations against McCarrick years before, but that he had not acted. Vigano called for the pontiff to resign.

In an unprecedented move, the Vatican announced today that Francis called for a summit of Catholic bishops in February next year. The subject of the meeting will be the “protection of minors.”