More than 20 per cent of the members of some Catholic religious orders were allegedly involved in child sexual abuse, a royal commission hearing in Sydney has been told, ABC News reports.
Nearly 2000 Church figures, including priests, religious brothers and sisters, and employees, were identified as alleged perpetrators in a report released by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
In her opening address, Gail Furness SC said a survey revealed 4444 alleged incidents of abuse between January 1980 and February 2015 were made to Church authorities.
Ms Furness said 60 per cent of all abuse survivors attending private royal commission sessions reported sexual abuse at faith-based institutions.
The royal commission's report found of the 1880 alleged perpetrators from within the Church, 572 were priests.
Ms Furness described the victims' accounts as "depressingly similar".
The Archbishops of Sydney, Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne and Canberra-Goulburn have congregated in Sydney to give evidence as part of the three-week public hearing.
In his opening statement, Francis Sullivan, CEO of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council, affirmed the commitment of Catholic leaders to repairing the wrongs of the past, to listening to survivors and putting their needs first, and ensuring a safer future. He expressed admiration and gratitude for the survivors who came forward to tell their story.
Mr Sullivan acknowledged the data which had just been presented by Ms Furness, saying that it must be reckoned with, and noting that the hearing would provide the opportunity for this reckoning.
He said that one child abused by a priest or religious was appalling to all faithful Catholics, calling it a hypocrisy "grossly unbefitting a Church which seeks to be, and should be, held to its own high standard."
Almost 4500 alleged abuse in Catholic institutions over 35 years, royal commission told (Sydney Morning Herald)
Priest: 'Church shouldn't have celibacy' (news.com.au)
WRAP UP OF DAY 1 OF THE COMMISSION
Summary and analysis (Catholic Weekly)