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600 children abused over decades in US archdiocese: report

Investigative report about Archdiocese of Baltimore outlines abuse by priests, deacons and seminarians from 1940s through 2002
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore's Cathedral of Mary Our Queen is seen in this file photo taken on June 23, 2017

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore's Cathedral of Mary Our Queen is seen in this file photo taken on June 23, 2017. (Photo: AFP)

Published: April 06, 2023 05:29 AM GMT
Updated: April 06, 2023 05:35 AM GMT

More than 600 children in the eastern US state of Maryland were abused by over 150 clergy and other Catholic Church members, according to a study made public Wednesday that covers six decades.

The investigative report about the Archdiocese of Baltimore, which outlined abuse from the 1940s through 2002, comes amid an ongoing reckoning with widespread abuse and coverups by Church leaders around the world.

The Maryland Attorney General's Office said it had identified 156 abusers, including priests, deacons, teachers and seminarians, who "engaged in horrific and repeated abuse," noting how the abusers often took advantage of parents' or a community's trust.

"The sheer number of abusers and victims, the depravity of the abusers' conduct, and the frequency with which known abusers were given the opportunity to continue preying upon children are astonishing," the Attorney General's report said.

It added that the number of victims was "likely far higher" than the reported figure of over 600 children, while condemning the Church's refusal to acknowledge allegations of child sexual abuse and shuffling known offenders to other locations.

"The duration and scope of the abuse perpetrated by Catholic clergy was only possible because of the complicity of those charged with leading the Church and protecting its faithful," the study said.

Responding to the report, Baltimore Archbishop William Lori apologized, stating that the study "details a reprehensible time in the history of this Archdiocese, a time that will not be covered up, ignored or forgotten."

Thousands of reports of pedophilia within the Catholic Church have surfaced around the world in recent years.

In February, an independent commission in Portugal revealed that the country's Catholic clergy had abused nearly 5,000 children since 1950.

A moment of reckoning first came in the United States in 2002 when the Boston Globe newspaper published a major investigation into abuses committed by scores of Boston priests, which were covered up by their bishops.

A grand jury investigation into Pennsylvania dioceses in 2018 exposed the systematic cover-up by the Church of abuse by "over 300 predator priests." More than 1,000 child victims were cited.

Pope Francis has pledged an "all-out battle" against clerical abuse, holding an unprecedented summit on the issue in 2019 and enacting reforms that include new obligations to report clerical child abuse and cover-ups.

In late March, the pope extended a 2019 law aimed at fighting sexual abuse in the Church by making lay Catholic leaders responsible for acts committed under their watch in Vatican-approved bodies.

Between 1950 and 2018, the US Catholic Church received credible complaints of child sex abuse involving 7,002 members of the clergy, according to the website bishop-accountability.org.

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