475 child sex abuse cases by Belgian Catholic clergy: probe

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A Belgian Catholic Church-backed commission Friday published a report revealing hundreds of cases of alleged sexual abuse of minors, in nearly every congregation in the country.

The commission said it had received 475 complaints in the first six months of this year, mostly related to paedophilia allegations committed in the 1950s through the late 1980s by Catholic clergy, but also by religion teachers and adults working with youth movements.

The 200-page report which contains testimonies from some 124 anonymous "survivors" -- as the victims of the alleged abuse are called -- reveal that the sexual abuse for most victims began at age 12, although one victim was two years old, five were age four, eight age five and ten age seven, the report said.

While the description of the alleged sex abuser is often imprecise, where verification has been made, 102 alleged abusers were members of some 29 religious orders, the report said.

"We can say that no congregation escapes sexual abuse of minors by one or several of its members," the report's authors wrote.

Two-thirds of the alleged victims were male, it also noted.

The commission headed by psychiatric specialist in paedophilia, Peter Adriaenssens, said it received most of its testimony after the forced resignation in April of the bishop of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe, who admitted having sexually abused his nephew between 1973 and 1986.

A woman in the report testified that she was abused at age 17 by a priest and tried to seek help from a bishop in 1983.

"I told him 'I have a problem with one of your priests'. He told me: 'Ignore him and he will leave you alone'," she said.

The commission concluded that the victims deserve "a courageous Church which isn't afraid to confront its vulnerability, to recognise it, to cooperate in finding fair responses," it said.

The commission members resigned en masse in June after their file were seized in raids by Belgian judicial authorities.

Judges subsequently struck off from admissible evidence the fruits of that search in June at the offices of the church commission.

© 2010 AFP

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