The Italian Catholic Church released its first report on Thursday into allegations of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable people, but victim advocates said the number of cases was likely much higher and denounced its limited scope as shameful.
The 41-page report, the first of two, only covers 2020-21. A promised second report will cover abuses dating back to 2000, although it is unclear when it will be released. The victims have called for a thorough outside investigation dating back decades, like those in France and Germany.
The 2020-21 report, which covers cases reported in those years but not necessarily occurring at that time, was produced by a Catholic university in northern Italy. He said 89 people were believed to have been abused by 68 suspected abusers, including priests as well as lay people such as church workers and religious teachers. The data comes from “listening centers” in the dioceses and is limited to information from those who have come forward. About 53% of the suspected cases were recent and the rest occurred in the past, although the report did not specify when.
“It’s absolutely unsatisfactory and shameful,” said Francesco Zanardi, 51, head of Rete l’Abuso (The Abuse Network), which has one of the largest digital archives on clerical sexual abuse in Italy. “It was already shameful that the (second study) only covered cases from 2000,” he told Reuters from his home in northern Italy.
Still, Zanardi said the numbers in the report were significantly higher than expected. “If these numbers are correct, they are already high, but the real numbers are higher,” he said. Extrapolating the report’s statistics, the number of victims over the past 22 years would be at least 2,000, he said.
Church leaders presenting the report at a press conference defended it. “This is just the beginning,” Archbishop Lorenzo Ghizzoni said, adding that he expects more victims to come forward as the reporting system gets involved and becomes more user-friendly. victims.
He said the Italian Church wanted to make it easier for victims to protest, including setting up the “listening centres” outside Church buildings, which could be intimidating, and having lay people work them. , especially women. Father Gianluca Marchetti, an abuse expert from northern Italy, told the new conference that the listening centers did not intend to discourage victims from going directly to civil authorities and encouraged to do so.
Victims groups in Italy have expressed frustration with the Church for years. They called for a comprehensive independent investigation dating back at least part of the last century, when most of the abuse took place after World War II. Zanardi was abused by a priest before 2000, which means his case will not feature in the next report. His group says Church authorities failed to intervene, covered up, or acted too late to prevent the abuse from repeating itself.
The global sex abuse crisis has severely damaged the credibility of the Roman Catholic Church and cost it hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements, with some dioceses in other countries declaring bankruptcy.
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