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ASSISI, Italy (ChurchMilitant.com) - The overwhelming majority of victims of clerical sex abuse in 2022 were girls between the ages of 15 and 18, a report from the Italian Bishops' Conference (CEI) has revealed.
The report, titled "Protect, Prevent, Train: On the Territorial Network for Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Adults," which was released on Thursday, identified 25 of 54 victims of clergy sex abuse as postpubescent minor females from 186 dioceses.
In all, the report recorded 32 perpetrators in 2022, following an investigation conducted under the supervision of the CEI.
According to the report, 19 out of 54 victims were over 18 years old.
"The focus on the gender of the victims reveals a clear prevalence of females (44) compared to males (10)," the report stated.
Offering a profile of abusers, the report categorized the perpetrators as aged between 40 and 60, in over half of the cases. The average age of the offender was 43 years. Most were single, but two were married.
While almost all the abusers (31 out of 32) were male and belonged to both dioceses and religious orders, there were eight laymen listed as abusers, including five teachers, one catechist, the founder of an ecclesial association, and a teacher of religion.
Rete L'Abuso, an Italian network of victims of clerical sex abuse, slammed the report as "self-congratulatory," as if "the diocesan offices are doing something positive in the area."
"In addition to not reporting the cases to the civil authorities, the report does not provide any data on facts, places, etc. and consequently, it is unverifiable," Rete L'Abuso noted on its website.
The report listed only victims who turned to help desks throughout Italy, and the numbers cited by the CEI were "definitely less" than the reports received by Rete L'Abuso during the same year, the website observed.
Moreover, there are dioceses that are reluctant to acknowledge cases of sex abuse, and such dioceses did not feature in the report, the campaign group pointed out.
The network cited the San Remo diocese as an example of a diocese where clergy sex scandals were continuing.
"We have tracked down some of these priests on well-known gay dating apps, but this is not the problem; it is that these apps are often also used for child prostitution, solicitation and more," Rete L'Abuso remarked.
"Although the child abuse matrix cannot be ruled out and therefore [is] worthy of at least an investigation by the bishop, the documents and some testimonies undoubtedly reveal the solicitation of 'vulnerable people,' some very young," it added.
The report was presented at the 78th Extraordinary General Assembly of the CEI, which took place in Assisi from Nov. 13–16 under the guidance of Cdl. Matteo Zuppi, archbishop of Bologna and president of the episcopal conference.
The CEI report reflects a marked shift from victims of clerical sex abuse being minor boys to their being minor girls.
Two reports by the John Jay College in 2004 and 2011 demonstrated that more than 80% of victims of clerical sex abuse have been boys.
"Nationwide, girls are four times more likely to be victims of sexual abuse than boys, but in U.S. Catholic parishes and schools over the past seventy years, the victims of sexual assault by Catholic priests have been overwhelmingly male," sociologist and expert on clerical sex abuse, Fr. Paul Sullins, concluded.
In his academic article, Fr. Sullins noted that the evidence "seems to suggest that Catholic abusers strongly prefer males as sexual objects or, put another way, that child sexual abuse among Catholic clergy is largely perpetrated by homosexual, not heterosexual, priests."