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Sex abuse allegations

February 7, 2010

The Catholic church in Germany has vowed to probe new reports that claim the extent of sexual abuse by some of its clerics may have been much higher than previously admitted.

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Berlin's elite Canisius Jesuit college has been rocked by allegations of sexual abuseImage: AP

German news magazine Der Spiegel reported over the weekend that at least 10 church employees currently face accusations of sexual abuse.

The magazine said more than 94 clerics and laymen have been suspected of sexual abuse since 1995. But only 30 of those suspects had actually been prosecuted, the report said, because of legal time constraints on pursuing cases.

The latest reports come amid a widening scandal of serial sex abuse by Catholic priests in Germany.

Earlier this week, Berlin's elite Canisius College admitted systematic abuse of pupils by at least two Roman Catholic priests between 1975 and 1983 who once taught there. One of them has reportedly denied doing so.

Suspicions have since emerged at three other Jesuit-run schools, in Hamburg, Bonn and in the Black Forest region, also dating back to the 1970s and 80s.

Catholic church vows to clarify abuses

The Catholic church reacted to the latest reports by condemning the abuse and vowing to take action.

During a Sunday service in Hanover's basilica, regional Catholic deacon, Provost Martin Tenge, said the church's "whole institution" bore blame through an attitude of "please don't talk about it."

"When a Catholic priest, representing an institution with such high moral notions, commits sexual abuse, this leads to an unrectifiable breach," Tenge said.

The secretary of Germany's Catholic Bishops Conference, Hans Langendoerfer, said: "We want clarification. We want to address the subject openly. The revelations show a dark chapter of the church that horrifies me," he told Der Spiegel's website."

Guidelines adopted in 2002 had, he said, established a "good system" to investigate sexual abuse allegations.

Last week, Jesuit leaders issued apologies and urged former pupils to notify past abuses by offenders.

The Berlin diocese' special commissioner Stefan Dybowski urged victims to file charges immediately. In severe cases, the diocese would itself call in state prosecutors, he said.

Repeated revelations of pedophile priests have rocked the Catholic church in a number of countries in recent years. In February, Pope Benedict XVI summoned Irish bishops after it emerged that Catholic authorities in Dublin had covered up abuses for three decades.

Editor: Sonia Phalnikar