Catholic Church defrocks 52 priests for sex abuse
The Catholic Church in England and Wales has defrocked 52 priests for sexual abuse since 2001.
The National Catholic Safeguarding Commission (NCSC) also said 465 sexual assault claims were made against clergy members between 2003 and 2012.
The Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service (CSAS) said the Church had put in “robust measures” to tackle abuse.
But it admitted it had “no real knowledge” of how many victims there were.
There are about 4,500 Catholic priests in England and Wales, according to the NCSC.
It said recent high-profile sex abuse trials had encouraged victims to come forward.
As well as the 465 allegations, 31 more members of the Church were accused of having abusive images of children, according to a decade-long study by the NCSC.
“What you never know is when a victim will have the confidence to come forward and really feel they will be listened to and something will happen,” said commission chairman Danny Sullivan.
He said there had been “indefensible and inexcusable” failings to root out sex abuse, and said it could take “a generation” for trust to be recovered.
CSAS director Adrian Child said the Church had made it mandatory for all allegations to be immediately reported to police.
Priests who were not defrocked were subject to “covenants of care”, which restricts what they can do in the Church, he said.
Asked about the actual scale of abuse, Mr Child added: “Often there is a time lapse of 20, 30, 40 years between the abuse and people coming forward.
“We have no real knowledge of how many people there might be who have been hurt in some way in the past.”
Earlier this month, Pope Francis was quoted as saying data indicated “about 2%” of clergy in the Catholic Church were paedophiles.
Mr Child said: “That figure is not representative of the allegations against clergy in this country. The allegations we have had reported to us in this country are considerably lower than that.”
Peter Saunders, chief executive of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, said the defrocking of priests who abuse was “encouraging”.
He said: “We cannot have people in this position of huge trust and responsibility being given free rein to abuse children or vulnerable adults. I know from personal experience having spoken to many victims that there is still work to be done.”