Germany’s Catholic Church apologized to thousands of victims of sexual assault by clergy, with the institution’s top cardinal saying perpetrators must be brought to justice.
Cardinal Reinhard Marx said he was ashamed over the decades of abuse that have shattered trust, as well as how so many looked away for so long.
The dismay expressed by the head of the German Bishops’ Conference came as the institution published a damning report showing that in Germany, almost 3,700 minors — mainly boys — were assaulted between 1946 and 2014.
The report’s authors said the figure was “the tip of the iceberg”.
“Sexual abuse is a persistent problem and not a historical problem” in the Catholic Church, said Harald Dressing, a professor at the Mannheim Institute of Psychology, who coordinated the research commissioned by the Bishops’ Conference.
Pope Francis, on his way back from a visit to the Baltic states, said “if just one priest abuses a child, it’s monstruous.”
But the way the Church views sex abuse has evolved, as it has in general society, the pontiff added.
“In past times, things were hidden. They were also hidden at home, when uncles raped a niece, when the father raped his children. These things were hidden, because it was a great shame,” he said on board the papal plane.