A Belgian Catholic Church-backed commission on Friday published a report revealing hundreds of cases of alleged sexual abuse of minors by clergy and church workers, and 13 suicides by abuse victims. The commission said it had received 475 complaints in the first six months of this year from alleged victims or their families.

Most were related to charges of sexual abuse committed between the 1950s and the late 1980s by Catholic clergy, but also by teachers of religion and adults working with youth movements.

It noted that one fact in particular showed “the extent of the negative effects: the high number of suicides,” said the report. The commission received 13 reports in which “the person concerned died by suicide and this in relation to sexual abuse by a cleric,” it said, adding that another six victims said they had attempted suicide.

The 200-page report which contains testimonies from some 124 anonymous ”survivors” — as the victims of the alleged abuse are called — reveal that the sexual abuse for most victims began at age 12, though one was two years old, five were aged four, eight aged five and 10 aged seven, said the report.

Imprecise

While the description of the alleged sex abuser is often imprecise, where verification had been made 102 were found to have been members of some 29 religious orders, it said. “We can say that no congregation escapes sexual abuse of minors by one or several of its members,” wrote the report's authors.

Two-thirds of the alleged victims were male, it noted. A woman testified that she was abused at age 17 by a priest and tried to seek help from a bishop in 1983. “I told him ‘I have a problem with one of your priests' He told me: ‘Ignore him and he will leave you alone',” she said.

The the victims deserve “a courageous Church which is not afraid to confront its vulnerability, to recognise it, to cooperate in finding fair responses. — AFP

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