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New Zealand Catholic church says 14% of clergy have been accused of abuse since 1950

New Zealand Catholic church says 14% of clergy have been accused of abuse since 1950
Of the nearly 1,700 reports of abuse included in Tuesday's figures, the church said that almost half of them involved children -- and most occurred in education and residential care facilities. File Photo by Mohammad Kheirkhah/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 1 (UPI) -- New Zealand's Catholic church, in response to a government inquiry, said on Tuesday that close to 15% of its diocesan clergy members have been accused of sexual and other types of abuse over the last seven decades.

The figures were given in response to a royal commission established five years ago by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to determine how frequent reported cases of abuse were in the church.

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The assessment says that 378, or 14%, of all diocesan clergy members have been accused of abuse since 1950.

"The scale of reported alleged abuse within the Catholic Church ... has become known for the first time from extensive research undertaken by the Church at the request of the Royal Commission on Abuse in Care," the Catholic Church of New Zealand said in a statement with the figures Tuesday.

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"A total of 1,680 reports of abuse were made by 1,122 individuals against Catholic clergy, brothers, nuns, sisters and lay people from 1950 to the present, with 592 alleged abusers named," it added. "Almost half the reported abuse involved sexual harm.

"The 1960s and 1970s were the decades with the most abuse reported, with 75% dated before 1990."

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Of the nearly 1,700 reports of abuse, the church said that almost half involved children -- and most occurred in education and residential care facilities.

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"The results of this research have been requested by and provided to the royal commission," the church said. "The definition of abuse used is the one used by the commission and includes reports of sexual, physical, emotional, psychological and neglect."

"Church leaders are committed to ensuring transparency," Catherine Fyfe, chairwoman of the group that conducted the research, said in a statement. "Consistent with this principle, we have published this information now, as soon as the work on it has been completed.

"The Information Gathering Project was a major exercise involving dozens of people over two years, including searching paper files dating back 70 years in hundreds of places."

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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said after the release of the report Tuesday that the actual scale of abuse in the Catholic church in New Zealand has likely been higher, according to information from its members -- and could be as high as "twelve-fold."

"The church has simply released what information it has recorded and this should not be seen as a comprehensive listing of all abuse that has occurred," SNAP said, according to The Guardian. "The actual scale of sexual abuse is very difficult to measure."

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Cardinal John Dew, the president of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference, called the figures in the report "horrifying."

"I am grateful that so much work has been done in researching the details and making them public," he said, according to The Guardian. "I firmly hope that facts like these will help us to face the sad reality.

"The church will learn from this and affirm its commitment to the work of safeguarding."

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