Cases of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests, nuns and members ofreligious orders, and subsequent cover-ups, in the 20th and 21st centuries have led to numerous allegations, investigations, trials and convictions. The abused include boys and girls, some as young as 3 years old, with the majority between the ages of 11 and 14. The accusations began to receive isolated, sporadic publicity in the late 1980s. Many of these involved cases in which a figure was accused of decades of abuse; such allegations were frequently made by adults or older youths years after the abuse occurred. Cases have also been brought against members of theCatholic hierarchy who covered up sex abuse allegations and moved abusive priests to other parishes where abuse continued.
By the 1990s, the cases began to receive significant media and public attention in some countries, especially in Ireland, Canada, Australia, and the United States and were widespread by the 2000s. Members of the Church's hierarchy have argued that media coverage was excessive and disproportionate, and that such abuse also takes place in other religionsand institutions. A series of television documentaries in the 1990s, such as Suffer the children (UTV, 1994), brought the issue to national attention in Ireland. A critical investigation by The Boston Globe in 2002 led to widespread media coverage of the issue in the United States, which was later dramatized in Tom McCarthy's film Spotlight in 2015. By 2010, much of the reporting focused on abuse in Europe and Australia.
From 2001 to 2010 the Holy See, the central governing body of the Catholic Church, considered sex abuse allegations involving about 3,000 priests dating back fifty years. Cases reflect worldwide patterns of long-term abuse as well as the church hierarchy's pattern of regularly covering up reports of alleged abuse. Diocesan officials and academics knowledgeable about the Roman Catholic Church say that sexual abuse by clergy is generally not discussed, and thus is difficult to measure.
Some studies claim that priests in the Catholic Church may not be any more likely than other men to commit abuse.
The sexual abuse of children under the age of consent by priests has received significant media and public attention in the United States,Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Philippines, Belgium, France, Germany and Australia. Cases have also been reported in other nations throughout the world. Many of the cases span several decades and are brought forward years after the abuse occurred.
Although nationwide inquiries have been conducted only in the United States and Ireland, as well as an Australian inquiry into institutional responses, cases of clerical sexual abuse of minors have been reported and prosecuted in New Zealand, Canada and other countries. In 1994, allegations of sexual abuse of 47 young seminarians surfaced in Argentina. In 1995, Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër resigned from his post asArchbishop of Vienna, Austria over allegations of sexual abuse, although he remained a Cardinal. Since 1995, more than 100 priests from various parts of Australia were convicted of sexual abuse.
The sins of Babylon will be laid open.The fearful results of enforcing the observances of the church by civil authority, the inroads of spiritualism, the stealthy but rapid progress of the papal power—all will be unmasked. By these solemn warnings the people will be stirred. Thousands upon thousands will listen who have never heard words like these. In amazement they hear the testimony that Babylon is the church, fallen because of her errors and sins, because of her rejection of the truth sent to her from heaven. As the people go to their former teachers with the eager inquiry, Are these things so? the ministers present fables, prophesy smooth things, to soothe their fears and quiet the awakened conscience. But since many refuse to be satisfied with the mere authority of men and demand a plain “Thus saith the Lord,” the popular ministry, like the Pharisees of old, filled with anger as their authority is questioned, will denounce the message as of Satan and stir up the sin-loving multitudes to revile and persecute those who proclaim it. GC 606.2