Since 2002 the bishops have conducted a study of sexual abuse by clergy and religious in Japan. Due to difficulty in understanding the situation and inadequate survey methods, this report is very late, but we have decided to now publish the results.

As leaders of the Catholic Church in Japan we want to take this opportunity to apologize to the victims and all those affected.

This report includes many issues the Church faces that need to be addressed, and we will continue to work to understand the full reality.

Above all, we take these results seriously and are determined to do our best to prevent such things from happening again.

We ask for your prayers and cooperation.

March 13, 2020
Day of Prayer for Survivors and Victims of Abuse

✠ Mitsuaki Takami, Archbishop of Nagasaki
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan


In the wake of cases of sexual abuse by a priest of the Boston Archdiocese in 2002, the Catholic bishops of Japan released Concerning the Sexual Abuse of Minors1) and formed a project team to create guidelines for bishops to address the issue of sexual abuse by clergy in Japan2) as well as a desk for the protection of children and women (Desk). The main role of the Desk is to create a system based on the guidelines and to raise awareness.

As a rule, it is the responsibility of the individual dioceses, congregations of religious, and missionary societies to handle cases of sexual abuse and sexual violence by clergy and religious. In the case of religious and missionaries, the diocesan bishop will be informed, and he will take immediate steps to investigate. Only in verified cases of sexual abuse will he then report to the Holy See. In Japan, it is stipulated that at the same time as the report to the Holy See the president of the bishop’s conference will also be informed. Currently, reporting to the president of the bishops’ conference does not mean reporting to the full membership of the conference.

The Desk has worked under the Bishops’ Conference Standing Committee and Plenary Assembly to issue a manual3) with updated guidelines based upon the policies of the Holy See as well as the position of the Catholic Church in Japan in order to establish a system in each diocese. The Desk was responsible for the preparation of the questionnaire for this study and for the compilation of the data.

This study dealt only with sexual abuse of minors by clergy and religious in the Catholic Church in Japan. Sexual abuse is rarely reported at the time it occurs. It may take time for a victim to realize that he or she was a victim of abuse, or the perpetrator may frighten the victim into silence.

Sex crimes often remain hidden. In the case of a close-knit community like a parish it is especially difficult for victims to raise their voice. The courageous people who have publicly spoken out, including those who responded to this survey, are just the tip of the iceberg. There is a great likelihood that there are still people who cannot speak up, and so the true number of victims of sexual abuse and sexual violence remains unknown.

Therefore, dioceses, religious congregations and missionary societies where this survey did not turn up any cases should not leap to the conclusion that they have no cases. We need to review whether we have an environment in which victims can speak out with peace of mind, and the whole Church must work to eradicate sexual abuse and sexual violence.


In May 2019, at the direction of Pope Francis, Archbishop Mitsuaki Takami, president of the CBCJ, sent a questionnaire on the response to sexual abuse of minors to all 16 diocesan bishops. The purpose of this study was to understand the actual situation of the Church in Japan regarding the response to sexual abuse of minors and to consider future measures. In order to understand the situation more accurately, a similar additional survey was conducted in October 2019 for 40 men’s and 77 women’s religious and missionary communities.

The questionnaires asked for details of cases such as the occurrence and the time of occurrence, the age of the victim at the time, notification and the method of consultation, details of the abuse, the response and result. Concerning the accused, the questionnaire asked the name, whether the allegation was admitted or not, action, the accused’s current status, etc. There were also questions about whether superiors informed their successors of the situation and record keeping.


As of the end of February 2020, responses were received from all 16 dioceses, all 40 men’s communities, and 55 women’s communities. Sixteen allegations of sexual abuse by clergy or religious were reported.

In all cases, the names of individual dioceses, religious congregations and mission societies as well as the number of reported cases in each will not be made public because doing so may lead to the identification of the individual victims.

1. Unverified cases

We have asked for a re-investigation of many cases. However, for various reasons in some cases verification is difficult because the alleged abuse occurred long ago and the victim recalls no details beyond having been abused at an early age, the victim or the accused is now elderly and suffering from illness or dementia, or the accused abuser has died. These situations are linked to the fact that systematic reporting of cases, follow-up, or transferal of information had not taken place.

2. The Victims
(1) The time of abuse and the gender of the victims

There was one case of abuse of a female in the 1950s, five cases in the 1960s (one girl, three boys, one unknown), one in the 1970s (male), three in the 1990s (two girls, one boy), three in the 2000s (one girl, one boy and one unknown), and two in the 2010s (one girl, one boy). There was also one report of a case in which details were lacking.

(2) Age at the time of abuse

Of those who were abused, one was under the age of six, five were between six and 12, and six were aged 13-17. In four cases, the age is not known.

(3) Reporting

The shortest period from the abuse to a victim’s reporting it was less than half a year. A lapse of 10 to 30 years was most common, but it also took 50-70 years for some victims to speak out.

Many cases were reported to the diocese or the religious congregation or missionary society at the suggestion of family members or trusted Church personnel or on the victim’s own initiative as an adult after long inescapable suffering.

(4) Response

In many cases, there was discussion between the victim (and others) and the diocesan bishop or the superior of the religious or missionary institute.

If the perpetrator admitted to the allegations, a response was made in accordance with the wishes of the victim, in many cases reaching some form of settlement or reconciliation.

On the other hand, if the suspect denied the charge or refused to respond at the stage of fact-checking, there were many cases where the process ended with an inadequate response such as an apology by the diocesan bishop or the superior.

3. The Perpetrators
(1) Affiliation

The accused are seven Japanese diocesan priests and eight religious or missionaries (seven foreign nationals, one Japanese, and one unknown).

(2) Acknowledgment

In four cases, the perpetrator admitted the abuse. There were five who denied the allegations. In seven cases, it is unknown if the accused admitted to or denied the charge.

In the cases of denial, there was one subsequent investigation by a third-party panel and another investigation by a Church tribunal. In both cases, the results were kept secret. In three cases for which no third-party panel was established the matter was dealt with privately, in the internal forum.

(3) Actions at the time of discovery of the incident

Two clergy were suspended, one left the community, eight were transferred either overseas or domestically, and the outcomes of five cases are unknown.

(4) Current situation of perpetrators

Of the known perpetrators, four have died, two have been laicized, three have been transferred to other dioceses, two continue to work in the same diocese without public knowledge of the case, and one is under medical care. The situations of four are unknown.

1. Compliance with national law

Sexual abuse is a crime of child abuse. It is necessary to develop an awareness that if a child is believed to have been abused everyone in the country has a duty to contribute to the prevention of child abuse by notifying the child counseling office or the welfare office of each municipality, the police, etc. in accordance with Article 6 of the Act on the Prevention of Child Abuse4) and the provisions of Article 25 of the Child Welfare Act.5)

Pope Francis’ apostolic letter motu proprio, You are the Light of the World, 19,6) also stipulates compliance with state laws. However, this study includes old cases in which no evidence was found of any notifications based on civil law.

2. Obligation of Full Reporting
(1) Report to the diocesan bishop

During this investigation, there were cases of sexual abuse by religious and missionaries that were newly reported to the diocesan bishops. If a case is discovered, it is necessary to fully report it to the diocesan bishop. In addition, there have been cases reported to the headquarters of religious congregations and missionary institutes and their diocesan bishops, but it is necessary that the case also be reported to the diocesan bishop of the place where the abuse occurred.

(2) Report to the Holy See

Regarding reports to the Holy See, it is necessary to respond based on Article 3 of You are the Light of the World concerning the obligation to report to the local authorities and the Holy See. In Japan, at the same time as the report to the Holy See, a report must be submitted to the president of the Bishops’ Conference.7)

3. Third-party panels

In this investigation, it was found that four accusations were admitted to by the perpetrators, five were denied, and seven are unknown. Of the number of denied cases, only one was placed before a third-party panel and only one was dealt with by a Church tribunal.

When an accused party denies the allegation, a third-party panel must be established to verify the victim’s accusation and determine guilt or innocence.

Third-party panels shall not judge solely by the standards of assault and intimidation required in a civil trial, such as requiring testimony by the victim to prove the charge or determining the existence of consent. For this reason, members of third-party panels must be chosen carefully.

4. Information sharing by bishops and superiors

Investigations in 2002 and 2012 found that in no case was information about cases passed on to the successors of diocesan bishops.

Information about all cases of sexual abuse must be conveyed to successor bishops and superiors in order to monitor the activities of perpetrators in the future. Even if it is not passed on directly by the previous bishop or superior, it is necessary to ensure the storage of data so that it may be accessed by the successor.

The complete sharing of this information is also important in preventing the recurrence and spread of damage.

5. Dealing with perpetrators within the Church

The Manual mandates: “Clearly recognizing the legal and ethical responsibilities of clergy and religious, offenders will be removed from any duties that may result in a recurrence of abuse, and steps will be taken to ensure that they do not have any opportunity to interact with children. In some cases, they may be suspended from the clerical state. In the case of a serious scandal, seclusion or expulsion from the clerical state is possible.”8) This mandate must be observed.>

This investigation found a case of someone still working without complying with imposed conditions. The bishop and the superior accept the fact that the sanctions have been limited to “setting restrictions” and “merely time-limited sanctions (suspension of activity, private residence).” Given that the perpetrator did not show true conversion or make reparation, they must consider the perpetrator’s actions and do more to prevent recurrence.

The bishops’ conference must also reconsider the disposition of the perpetrators and consider a comprehensive rehabilitation program that includes counseling, medical treatment, and spiritual accompaniment.

6. Consideration for victims

According to Article 5 of You are the Light of the World, it is clear that Church authorities (diocesan bishops, religious and missionary superiors) shall strive to treat victims and families case-by-case with dignity and respect, and shall provide medical, therapeutic and psychological support for the victims as needed.

The total reality of the victim’s pain (psychological, physical, social and spiritual injury) must be taken seriously and responded to in accord with the person’s wishes. Moreover, even if the victim does not ask for help at the time, if at any time in the future help is needed, consideration of the need must be given.


The dioceses, and religious and missionary institutes that are the subject of this investigation shall establish new third-party investigative panels. These panels shall examine whether cases were handled appropriately, and the diocesan bishop shall report the results to the bishops’ conference president within six months.

The subject of this investigation was sexual abuse against minors (those under 18 years old). However, the concern of You are the Light of the World includes “vulnerable persons.” Therefore, based on specific cases, we intend to more broadly consider sexual violence, and respond to it in manuals, etc.

In order to deal with these problems, we will work in cooperation with the religious and missionary institutes to eradicate sexual abuse and sexual violence in the Church, including its educational and other related institutions.