Seven Per Cent of Australian Catholic Priests Accused Of Child Sex Abuse

Peter Blenkiron (C), an Australian child sex abuse victim, speaking to journalists last year. New data has revealed 4,444 child abuse victims in the Catholic Church during a 35-year period.Reuters

New data from the Catholic church in Australia has revealed that seven per cent of its priests were accused of child sex during the last few decades. 

Between 1950 and 2015 seven per cent of Australian priests were accused of abusing children and more 40 per cent of priests in some orders have been accused of abuse, as CNN reports. Between 1980 and 2015, 4,444 people reported to church superiors that they'd been abused. The data comes from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Francis Sullivan from the Truth, Justice and Healing Council said: "These numbers are shocking. They are tragic and they are indefensible."

Senior Counsel Gail Furness delivered the findings on Monday. She described victims' accounts as "harrowing".

"The accounts were depressingly familiar," she said. "Children (who came forward) were ignored or worse, punished. Allegations were not investigated."

Accused priests were moved to new areas and given a fresh start. "Documents were not kept or they were destroyed. Secrecy prevailed as did cover-ups," Furness said.

The commission collected data from three surveys and various witness testimonies, and found that seven per cent of priests belonging to 75 Catholic Church authorities had been accused. The average age of abuse victims was 10.5 for girls and 11.6 for boys.

Sullivan added: "Each entry in this data for the most part represents a child who suffered at the hands of someone who should've cared for and protected them. And let's not forget the ripples of abuse.

"The data is an indictment on the priests who abused these children. It also reflects on the Church leaders who at times failed to take steps...failed to deal with them in accordance with the law," reported him saying.

The hearing will continue, and will in the next three weeks hear from six of Australia's seven Catholic archbishops.