According to an independent research group, the extent of the abuse scandal in the diocese of Münster is significantly larger than assumed. The scientists speak of up to 6000 people affected.

According to an independent study, the extent of sexual abuse in the Catholic diocese of Münster is significantly greater than previously known. The files of the diocese show a number of 610 victims of abuse and thus more than a third more than was recorded in the MHG study presented in 2018 by the German Bishops’ Conference, the scientists at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster (WWU) announced on Monday.

Abuse scandal in the diocese of Münster: Up to 6,000 people affected

Historian Natalie Powroznik, who was involved in the study, said the 610 victims are just the bright field emerging from the files. From comparable cases, a dark field can be assumed that is eight to ten times larger. So there are “about 5,000 to 6,000 affected girls and boys” in the Münster diocese.

At least 5,700 individual acts of sexual abuse were committed against the 610 victims who were known by name. In the main phase of the acts – the 1960s and 1970s – there were an average of two acts of abuse by priests per week in the parishes of the diocese of Münster. Three quarters of the victims are boys, a quarter girls, the majority between ten and 14 years old.

The authors of the study reported mostly massive acts of abuse with significant psychological consequences for the victims, including depression and suicidal thoughts. Indications of suicide attempts were found in 27 of the named abuse victims in the diocese of Münster. Powroznik said priests have repeatedly reinterpreted the abuse as a “godly” act.

Only recently has Munster been taking consistent action

Bishop Felix Genn of Münster wants to comment on the study next Friday. The study organizers accused Genn, who has been bishop in Münster since 2009, of failings. If an abuser has shown remorse, Genn has not always acted consistently in terms of canon law.

This has only happened recently. The researchers made massive accusations against the late Bishop Reinhard Lettmann, who had repeatedly used priests in pastoral care, who were also known to be pedophiles.