AMSTERDAM - Tens of thousands of children have been victims of sexual abuse by the Roman Catholic Church in the Netherlands since 1945, an independent commission said on Friday, criticizing what it called the church's cover-up and culture of silence.
Church leaders said the findings filled them with shame and sorrow and offered a "heartfelt apology", saying not only the perpetrators were to blame, but church authorities too.
The commission estimated that 10,000 to 20,000 minors were sexually abused in Catholic orphanages, boarding schools and seminaries between 1945 and 1981, with offenses ranging from very mild to serious, including rape.
Education changes meant few Catholic homes for minors remained after 1981, but abuses involving the church continued.
"Several tens of thousands of minors were subjected to mild, serious, and very serious forms of inappropriate sexual behavior in the Roman Catholic Church," from the end of World War Two until 2010, the commission said.