The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan recenty discovered cases of sexual abuse against minors spanning 70 years. Tokyo confernece discoverd in its internal probe of churches that from the 1950s to the 2010s 16 cases of sex abuse.
SInce last May, the Tokyo-based organization has been investigating all its convents and dioceses and encouraged people to come forward with reports of sexual abuse regardless of when it occurred.
The investigation uncovered some elementary school students, girls and boys even as young as under age of 6, were among those who had been allegedly abused in a priest’s room, church buildings and other facilities including foster homes , run by convents.
Some cases took place over 70 years ago and others happened too long ago to verify and all were exposed for the first time since they occurred so many decades ago.
The organization plans to reveal cases in which perpetrators were not adequately investigated, reported or punished, which raised questions about the culpability of the church, which has remained passive in addressing the problem for many years.
The probe found that while some of the perpetrators were ejected from the church or defrocked, other cases involving perpetrators who denied the accusations were resolved with a simple apology from higher-ranking clergymen.
One of those that reported in the investigation, Katsumi Takenaka, 63, told Kyodo News that when he was an elementary school student in the 1960s he would be called into the priest’s antechamber after mass and made to touch the lower half of the priest’s body.
“I’ve thought about committing suicide many times,” said Takenaka, who came forward as a victim in 2018 after long suffering from conditions and flashbacks caused by the abuse by the now-deceased German priest accused of abusing him.
According to Takenaka, the abuse occurred when he was just in the 4th grade and was living in a Catholic facility for children.
Takenaka said the priest would call for him every Wednesday night and he could not say no to the priest, as he threatened he would “go to hell” or he would “no longer be able to live in the facility” if he told someone about what the clergyman had been doing to him.
The priest would gift him with candies and stamps of foreign countries after the abuse as if it were hush money. The ordeal lasted about a year until the priest was transferred to a different facility but never investigated.
Five reports of sexual abuse were made when the bishops’ conference conducted questionnaire surveys in 2002 and 2012 throughout its dioceses, but details were not elicited at the time.