The research lasted two years and was conducted by a five-member team from the University of Muenster. The results show that in the period from 1945 to 2020, almost 200 members of the clergy abused underage victims, and there were 610 of them.
The number of abusers makes up 4.17 percent of the total number of priests in that diocese.
It is estimated that the number of victims is much higher
Given that the number of unreported cases of abuse is likely to be significantly higher, researchers estimate that there were between five and six thousand victims.
The church system itself played an important role in the crimes, said the study's author, historian Thomas Grossboelting. “Love of God and love of neighbor was perverted,” Grossboelting said today at the presentation of the study.
The victims of the abuse ranged in age from 10 to 14 and were mostly boys. They could not oppose the system, they were not trusted, the author of the study pointed out. The children were mostly traumatized and spoke, some of them, only after many years.
"Many knew what was going on"
The author of the study points out that the allegations of the late Bishop Reinhard Lettmann, who spoke only about individual cases, are not true. As this study shows, abuse occurred systematically, in all parts of the diocese.
Grossboelting also states that many knew what was going on. He especially referred to the problem of covering up crimes committed by the Church. Researchers said that based on some cases, it is possible to prove decades of failure in the diocese's leadership, as well as obstruction of justice.
In recent years, reports have been published from other parts of Germany showing the Church's failings to prevent and sanction abuse by priests. In the 1960s and 1970s, an average of two acts of pederasty were committed per week in this diocese according to the report.
Those responsible “kept silent, kept silent and only intervened superficially when necessary to avoid a public scandal,” he denounced.