"Although the recent revelations of clergy sexual abuse (13 years ago) suggest an unusual and recent epidemic among the Catholic church, the historical record suggests this difficulty has plagued the church over the centuries." Though times change, human nature doesn't, and when constrained by celibacy vows, it's expressed in other ways.
Isely said while criminal and civil cases successfully challenged church negligence, judicial decisions tend "not (to) hold churches (or the Vatican) liable for the sexual acts of their clergy."
Further, despite high-profile press coverage and litigation, earlier "research on priest offenders is virtually nonexistent, (and) claims of unprecedented treatment success with clergy offenders has not been supported by published data. Given the recidivism rates of sex offenders, the Catholic church should reconsider its policy of placing known sex offenders back into active ministry" - a longstanding practice by transferring them to another diocese or country, giving them a fresh crop of kids to abuse....and get away with it.
In 2004, John Jay College of Criminal Justice's (JJCCJ) Professor Karen Terry et al published a report commissioned by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, based on Catholic diocese surveys. It learned that under age 18 child molestation occurs in:
"more than 95% of dioceses and approximately 60% of religious communities. Of the 195 dioceses and eparchies that participated in the study, all but seven have reported" at least one case of an offending priest. "Of the 140 religious communities" surveyed, only 30 reported none, but not reporting them doesn't mean they didn't happen. Given the reluctance of victims to come forward, it's virtually certain many other incidences took place.
Covering the period 1950 - 2002, study findings included:
-- diocese and eparchy allegations made against 4,692 priests and deacons "for incidents that took place while these men were serving in ecclesiastical ministry;"
-- religious community allegations made against 647 priests; dioceses reported another 282 for a grand total of 929;