About seven percent of Catholic priests in Australia were accused of sexually abusing children between 1950 and 2010, but few allegations were investigated.
The scathing figures, released as hearings began on Monday over the allegations dating back decades, were compiled with the cooperation of the church as part of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
The commission, Australia’s highest level of inquiry, reported 4,444 alleged incidents of sexual abuse by Catholic priests between 1980 and 2015.
The inquiry also heard that 1,265 priests and religious brothers and nuns had been accused during a 60-year period ending 2010.
“These numbers are shocking. They are tragic and they are indefensible,” Franklin Sullivan, head of the church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council, told the commission.
“As Catholics we hang our heads in shame,” he added, holding back tears as he described the “massive failure on the part of the Catholic Church in Australia to protect children from abusers”