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7% of Australian Catholic priests allegedly abused children, inquiry told

The royal commission has heard allegations of abuse against Catholic priests

The Church
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An inquiry examining institutional sex abuse in Australia has heard 7% of the nation's Catholic priests allegedly abused children between 1950 and 2010.

An inquiry examining institutional sex abuse in Australia has heard 7% of the nation's Catholic priests allegedly abused children between 1950 and 2010.

In one order, more than 40% of church figures were accused of abuse. Almost 4,500 people claim to have been victims between 1980 and 2015, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse was told.

The commission, Australia's highest form of inquiry, is also investigating abuse at non-religious organisations. It has previously heard harrowing testimony from scores of people who suffered abuse at the hands of clergy. But the full scale of the problem was never clear until Monday, when the commission released the statistics it has gathered. The victims' stories were "depressingly similar", said Gail Furness, the lead lawyer assisting the commission in Sydney. "Children were ignored or worse, punished. Allegations were not investigated. Priests and religious [figures] were moved. The parishes or communities to which they were moved knew nothing of their past."

Damning statistics
Between 1980 and 2015, 4,444 children were abused at more than 1,000 Catholic institutions across Australia, Ms Furness said. The average age of the victims was 10.5 for girls and 11.5 for boys. On average, it took 33 years for each instance of abuse to be reported. The royal commission also detailed the number of abuse claims against 10 religious orders in the six decades after 1950.

The data showed four orders had allegations of abuse against more than 20% of their members. The royal commission, set up in 2013, is investigating allegations of sexual and physical abuse across dozens of institutions in Australia, including schools, sports clubs and religious organisations.

Ms Furness said on Monday that 60% of all survivors of abuse were from faith-based organisations. Of those, nearly two-thirds concerned the Catholic Church. Francis Sullivan, chief executive of the Truth Justice and Healing Council, which is co-ordinating the Catholic Church's response to the inquiry, said the data reflected "a massive failure'' by the church to protect children.

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