According to the study, 1,670 clergymen in Germany committed some form of sexual attack against 3,677 minors, mostly boys, between 1946 and 2014, Spiegel Online reported.
It points to a pattern of priests who have taken the vow of celibacy and diocese staff abusing minors. They kept the victims quiet by intimidation, instilling guilt and using their own status as figures of authority and trust.
More than half of the victims were 13 years old or younger, the study concluded, after examining 38,000 documents from the 27 German dioceses.
Researchers from three universities who carried out the survey warned that the true scale of the abuse was far greater, as many documents had been “destroyed or manipulated”.
Predator priests were often transferred to another parish, which was commonly not warned about their criminal history.
Only 38 percent of the accused were prosecuted by civil courts, mostly on complaints lodged by victims or their families.