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Report: Thousands of Germans abused by Catholic priests

Archbishop of Munich and Chairman of the German Bishops' Conference and Trier Bishop, Cardinal Reinhard Marx (left) and commissioner for sexual abuse issues in the ecclesiastical sphere, Stephan Ackermann speak at news conference Tuesday on the results of the study on 'Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests, Deacons and Male Religious' (MHG study) in Fulda, western Germany. (DANIEL ROLAND/AFP/Getty Images)

A study set to be released on Tuesday reportedly found that more than 3,600 people were sexually abused by over 1,600 clergymen in Germany's Catholic Church from 1946 to 2014. But experts believe the number of victims could be several times more than what they were able to document.

What are the details?

A copy of the report was leaked earlier this month to the German magazine Der Spiegel, according to The New York Times. It was commissioned by the German Bishops' Conference, and carried out by researchers from three German universities.

Speaking at the conference on Tuesday, Chairman Cardinal Reinhard Marx apologized to the church's abuse victims.

"For too long in the Church we have looked away, denied, covered up and didn't want it to be true," Marx said, the Times reported.

Matthias Katsch, chairman of a German victims' group, told CNN that the report uncovered the "absolute bare minimum" of documented cases, which were voluntarily reported by parishes. He said the true number of victims could be 10 times the amount reported.

Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of the website, BishopAccountability.org, echoed the same sentiments to The Washington Post.

"It is dramatic, the difference between what a thorough state-run investigation will find versus what the church will do when it's self-reporting," she said.

"Whatever the church reports is a fraction of the actual number — a small fraction," she added.

In a letter dated Sept. 14 and translated by the Post, German Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck of Essen expressed concern to his own diocese that the abuses by clergy had been far from eradicated.

"We are experiencing a very dark hour in our church's history, which hopefully result in a cleansing and renewal," he wrote.

"The dangers are far from being exorcised," Overbeck added. "We must fear that there is and could still be sexual abuse among us."

Anything else?

Adding further fuel to the controversy, confirmed victims of sexual abuse by German clergy are typically paid a "recognition of suffering" fee, which is capped at 5,000 euros ($5,900) by the German Bishops' Conference, according to CNN. Some exceptions can be made for higher payouts, however, in "particularly serious cases."

"The average payment to a survivor is 3,000 euros ($3,500)," Katsch explained. "And yet the German Church is the richest in the world. It's ridiculous. And they know it."

The German study is the latest in a growing number of scandals to hit the Catholic Church. The Post reported that "evidence of widespread abuse and its cover-up [within the church] has been found in every jurisdiction that has launched an investigation."

Other countries have ongoing investigations, including Australia, Chile, and numerous U.S. states.

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