A report on a Dutch inquiry said "several tens of thousands of minors" were sexually abused by Catholic Church personnel between 1945 and 2010, and it faulted Church leaders for covering up the abuse and failing to help victims.
Dutch bishops and heads of religious orders expressed "shame and sorrow" at the revelations and pledged to "take all measures provided for under Church and civil law" to prevent and punish such abuse in the future.
The report, issued Dec. 16, was the result of a lengthy independent inquiry requested by the Dutch bishops' conference and the Conference of Dutch Religious.
The commission that conducted the study had access to Church archives, and it received 1,795 specific reports of sexual abuse of minors in the Church.
The report estimated that between 10,000 and 20,000 children who spent part of their youth in a Catholic institution in the Netherlands suffered abuse by Church personnel.
It noted that there was no significant difference between Catholic and non-Catholic institutions.
The report faulted bishops and other Church officials for covering up cases of sexual abuse, for transferring perpetrators without punishment, for taking few preventive measures and for failing to give recognition, help and compensation to victims.
It called on bishops and superiors to give a public accounting of their actions.