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66 German clergy accused of sex abuse

66 German clergy accused of sex abuse

AAP, Australia/December 8, 2012

Germany's Roman Catholic church has revealed that at least 66 clergy had been accused of sexually abusing children and adults during a 10-year period, with most of the victims male.

The findings were part of a scientific study ordered after the church was thrown into crisis two years ago when hundreds came forward alleging they had been abused as minors between the 1950s and 80s.

Based on dozens of expert appraisals of Catholic clergy from between 2000 and 2010 submitted by 21 of Germany's 27 dioceses, it said the clergy had been accused of 576 cases of sexual abuse.

Three-quarters of the 265 alleged targets of abuse were male, the German Bishops' Conference said, on Friday releasing the report drawn up by three forensic centres for research.

Most of the cases took place between the 1960s and 90s "in a period when a different social awareness and a lower sensitivity to the theme of sexual acts on children and youths still prevailed", Norbert Leygraf, of the Institute of Forensic Psychiatry at Duisburg-Essen University, said in a statement.

"Understanding has changed in the course of the years both within the Catholic church as well as in society as a whole - today the focus is the greatest possible transparency and effort for quick clarification of cases of abuse," he said.

The study said "only in few cases" was the alleged abuse the result of an abnormal psychological condition, such as paedophilia, and cases largely reflected the rate of the problem in society at large.

"In particular a sexual preference disorder as defined by paedophilia or hebephilia was only diagnosed in a minority of clergy," Leygraf said.

"In this regard this is not significantly different from the prevalence in the overall German population," he added.

The study, which was launched in April last year, was conducted from expert reports on 78 Catholic clergy and found that, in most cases, the clergy had come into contact with the victim through the church congregation.

Leygraf noted the fact that there were more male victims than female could be due to girls having rarely acted as altar girls until the 1980s.

Bishop Stephan Ackermann, appointed by the Bishops' Conference for handling issues surrounding claims of sexual abuse of minors, said in a statement that the study was an "important building block".

He said he hoped it would help towards improving preventive measures.

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