The researchers said they were granted unhindered access to church files and spoke with numerous victims.
Muenster Bishop Felix Genn, who said he hasn't yet seen the study and plans to respond on Friday, apologized in a statement to victims of abuse and of cover-ups by church officials. But he acknowledged that an apology “is not enough” and vowed “further consequences” in dealing with abuse.
In 2018, a church-commissioned report concluded that at least 3,677 people were abused by clergy in Germany between 1946 and 2014. More than half of the victims were 13 or younger, and nearly a third served as altar boys.
The study in Muenster is one of several since then that have delved into decades of abuse in individual dioceses, their findings adding to pressure for church reform.
In January, a report commissioned by the Munich archdiocese faulted the handling of abuse cases there by a string of church officials past and present — including retired Pope Benedict XVI, who as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was archbishop of Munich and Freising from 1977 to 1982.
On Monday, the diocese of Essen said that a priest who had been convicted of abusing dozens of children in the 1970s and 1980s has been removed from the clergy. The man, who was only identified by the initial “H," was denied permission to practice as a priest in 2010.