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Catholic Church in Belgium details widespread sexual abuse

By the CNN Wire Staff
Ariaenssens said there was "not a single congregation" which has escaped abuse.
Ariaenssens said there was "not a single congregation" which has escaped abuse.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "Not a single congregation escaped sexual abuse of minors"
  • 13 of the alleged victims committed suicide
  • One alleged victim was 2 when the abuse began
RELATED TOPICS

(CNN) -- The Catholic Church in Belgium released an independent report Friday detailing hundreds of assertions of sexual abuse of children by clergy and others working for the church from the 1950s into the late 1980s.

"We can say that not a single congregation escaped sexual abuse of minors by one or more of its members," said the Commission on Church-Related Sexual Abuse Complaints, which was led by Dr. Peter Ariaenssens, who is both a church investigator and psychiatrist.

The commission said it received about 500 reports from alleged victims, about 60 percent of them from males.

It cited 320 alleged abusers, of whom 102 were known to have been clergy members from 29 congregations.

Thirteen of the alleged victims committed suicide, it said.

Investigators had information about when the abuse started for 233 of the alleged victims. Forty-eight were 12; one was 2; five were 4; eight were 5; seven were 6; 10 were 7.

Of the 230 alleged victims about whom investigators said they had reliable information, more than 70 percent are currently between the ages of 40 and 70, it said. Ten percent are 31 to 40.

Four alleged victims are 20 to 30 years of age, and one is younger than 20, it said.

At the other end of the scale, five alleged victims are aged between 80 and 90 years old and one is older than 90.

"The victims where the abuse starts before the age of 12 is equally big as the group of victims where the abuse starts after the age of 12," it said. Male victims were at highest risk between ages 10 and 14, while the risk that females would be victimized increased as they got older, it said.

All of the alleged abusers were men.

The committee said none of the alleged cases had occurred recently.

Pope Benedict XVI has repeatedly said the Vatican will seek justice for victims. Over the summer he said that the church must promise "to do everything possible" to ensure that the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests "will never occur again."

Benedict said the church must "insistently beg forgiveness from God" and from victims for the sexual abuse committed by Catholic priests, and that priests must be more thoroughly vetted before joining the ministry.

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