The Hague (AFP) – More than half of the Netherlands' senior clerics were involved in covering up sexual assault of children between 1945 and 2010, a press report claimed Saturday, further engulfing the Catholic Church in a global abuse scandal.
Over the course of 65 years, 20 of 39 Dutch cardinals, bishops and their auxiliaries "covered up sexual abuse, allowing the perpetrators to cause many more victims", the daily NRC reported.
"Four abused children and 16 others allowed the transfer of paedophile priests who could have caused new victims in other parishes," the Dutch newspaper added.
Church spokeswoman Daphne van Roosendaal told AFP the church could "confirm a part" of the report.
Other elements were based on anonymous information provided by a victims' assistance unit set up by the church.
"The names of several bishops correspond to those named in a report commissioned by the Church in 2010," the spokeswoman said.
Most of the accused clerics have since died, and the statute of limitations has expired in all cases, she added. Those still alive declined to comment, NRC said.
Meanwhile in France, a priest has been charged with sexually abusing four brothers, now aged from three to 17, his lawyer said Saturday.
The family brought the complaint against the 64-year-old priest, whose parish is in the central Cantal region. All four boys were said to be in the church choir.
The lawyer, Komine Bocoum, did not say when the alleged offences were said to have taken place.
Local bishop Bruno Grua said Saturday the his diocese was "shocked by these unspeakable acts".
They are the latest in a slew of assault allegations against the Catholic Church spanning several continents.
People in Australia, Europe, and North and South America have charged they were sexually abused by clergymen and lay people, in what German Archbishop Georg Gaenswein has called the Church's "own 9/11".
In August, Pope Francis declined to comment on a claim that he ignored sexual abuse allegations against a senior clergyman in the United States.
On Wednesday, the German Catholic Church said it was it was "dismayed and ashamed" by decades of child sex abuse by priests.