For decades, evidence of clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church was routinely manipulated or destroyed, according to a high-ranking Cardinal close to Pope Francis.
Cardinal Reinhard Marx’s stunning admission came on Saturday, during the third day of an unprecedented Vatican summit to address the ongoing scandal of child sex abuse in the Catholic Church
“Sexual abuse of children and young people can be traced back, in no small part, to the abuse of power in the area of administration,” Marx, Archbishop of Munich and president of the German Bishops’ Conference, told Pope Francis and others assembled on Saturday for the 4-day summit.
“It was not the perpetrators, but the victims who were regulated and pushed into silence,” he continued.
According to Marx, a recent study uncovered 3,677 cases of child sexual abuse committed by Catholic priests in Germany between 1946 and 2014.
To conceal the problem of clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, diocesan officials routinely destroyed or manipulated files that documented those crimes.
“I assume Germany was not an isolated case,” Marx said.
Clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church is certainly not limited to a single country, as recent investigations in Pennsylvania and elsewhere make perfectly clear.
Neither were the Church’s efforts to protect predatory priests and intimidate victims into silence.
For decades, those heavy-handed tactics allowed Catholic dioceses to escape legal liability for protecting abusive priests. If a victim eventually came forward, the statute of limitations governing any claims against the Church had usually expired.
Fortunately, as the true scope of clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church became clear, many states extended deadlines for filing such lawsuits. New York, where the Child Victims Act became law earlier this month, was the latest state to do so.
Among other things, the new law gives survivors until their 55th birthday to file civil claims against perpetrators, as well as the public or private institutions that harbored their abusers. Like similar laws, the New York Child Victims Act also opens a one-year window to allow survivors to revive old claims that fall outside the new statute of limitations.