The Catholic sex abuse cases are a series of convictions, trials and investigations into allegations of child sexual abuse crimes committed by Catholic priests and members of Roman Catholic orders against children as young as 3 years old with the majority between the ages of 11 and 14. These cases included anal sex, and oral penetration, and there have been criminal prosecutions of the abusers and civil lawsuits against the church's dioceses and parishes. Many of the cases span several decades and are brought forward years after the abuse occurred. Cases have also been brought against members of the Catholic hierarchy who did not report sex abuse allegations to the legal authorities. It has been shown they deliberately moved sexually abusive priests to other parishes where the abuse sometimes continued. This has led to a number of fraud cases where the Church has been accused of misleading victims by deliberately relocating priests accused of abuse instead of removing them from their positions.
In the 1950s, Gerald Fitzgerald, the founder of a religious order that treats Roman Catholic priests who molest children, concluded "(such) offenders were unlikely to change and should not be returned to ministry," and this was discussed with Pope Paul VI (1897 – 1978) and "in correspondence with several bishops." In 2001, sex abuse cases were first required to be reported to Rome. The Dallas Morning News did a year-long investigation, after the 2002 revelation that cases of abuse were widespread in the Church. The results made public in 2004 showed that even after the public outcry, priests were moved out of the countries where they had been accused and were still in "settings that bring them into contact with children, despite church claims to the contrary." Among the investigation's findings is that nearly half of 200 cases "involved clergy who tried to elude law enforcement." In July 2010, the Vatican doubled the length of time after the 18th birthday of the victim that clergymen can be tried in a church court and streamlined the processes for removing "pedophile priests."
The cases received significant media and public attention in Canada, Ireland, and the United States, and throughout the world. In response to the attention, members of the church hierarchy have argued that media coverage has been excessive and disproportionate. According to a Pew Research Center study, media coverage mostly emanated from the United States in 2002, when a Boston Globe series began a critical mass of news reports; by contrast, in 2010 much of the reporting focused on child abuse in Europe. From 2001-2010 the Holy See, the central governing body of the Catholic Church, has "considered sex abuse allegations concerning about 3,000 priests dating back up to 50 years" according to the Vatican's Promoter of Justice. Cases worldwide reflect patterns of long-term abuse and covering up reports. Church officials and academics knowledgeable about the Third World Roman Catholic Church, say that sexual abuse by clergy is generally not discussed, and thus is difficult to measure. In the Philippines where as of 2002 at least 85% of the population is Catholic, the revelations of child sexual abuse by priests followed the United States' reporting in 2002.
In the United States, which has been the lead focus of much of the scandals and subsequent reforms, BishopAccountability.org, an "online archive established by lay Catholics," reports that over 3,000 civil lawsuits have been filed against the church, some of these cases have resulted in multi-million dollar settlements with many claimants. In 1998 the Roman Catholic Diocese of Dallas paid $30.9 million to twelve victims of one priest ($44.1 million in present-day terms). From 2003 to 2009 nine other major settlements involving over 375 cases with 1551 claimants/victims, resulted in payments of over $1.1 billion USD. The Associated Press estimated the settlements of sex abuse cases from 1950 to 2007 totaled more than $2 billion. BishopAccountability puts the figure at more than $3 billion in 2012. Addressing "a flood of abuse claims" five dioceses (Tucson, Arizona; Spokane, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Davenport, Iowa, and San Diego) got bankruptcy protection. Eight Catholic dioceses have declared bankruptcy due to sex abuse cases from 2004-2011.
Read more about Catholic Sex Abuse Cases: International Dimension of Problem, Contemporary History of Child Sex Abuse, Representative Statistics On Offenders and Victims, Lawsuits and Their Effects, Irish Government Responses, Church Responses, Criticisms of Church Responses, Media Coverage, Debate Over Causes, Popular Culture
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