20:54 GMT31 October 2020
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    More than 4,000 people have alleged that, as children, they were sexually abused by adults within over 1,000 Australian Catholic institutions between 1980-2015, according to an investigation by the country’s Royal Commission.

    The commission was set up in 2013 to probe institutional responses to reports of sexual and physical abuse of minors across Australia over decades.

    According to eye-opening statistics released on Monday, 7 percent of Catholic priests who worked in the country between 1950-1975 were accused of sexually abusing children. Statistics show that 78 percent of the victims were male and 22 percent were female, with the average age at the time of abuse 10.5 for girls and 11.5 for boys.

    Having collected private testimony from the victims, the commission also found that the majority of crimes were associated with certain religious orders, including the Brothers of St John of God, which has seen 40 percent of its members face allegations of child sexual abuse.

    What makes the situation even more tragic is that the reports of abuse were not properly addressed by the church hierarchy or law enforcement. Children were either ignored or punished, and Church leaders did everything they could to cover up the crimes.

    "Allegations were not investigated. Priests and religious [figures] were moved. The parishes or communities to which they were moved knew nothing of their past," the official statement said. "Documents were not kept or they were destroyed. Secrecy prevailed as did cover ups."

    Francis Sullivan, chief executive of the Truth Justice and Healing Council, which is coordinating the Catholic Church's response to the inquiry, described the situation as a "massive failure."

    "These numbers are shocking, they are tragic, and they are indefensible," Sullivan said, "As Catholics, we hang our heads in shame."

    The inquiry is ongoing. A final report from the commission is expected by the end of the year.    


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