This may be due in part to the more hierarchical structure of the Church in Third World countries, the "psychological health" of clergy in those regions, and because Third World media, legal systems and public culture are not as apt to thoroughly discuss sexual abuse.Traditionally, the Roman Catholic Church has held tight control over many aspects of church life around the globe, including "the words used in prayer", but it left sex abuse cases to be handled locally.In 1994, allegations of sexual abuse of 47 young seminarians surfaced in Argentina.In Ireland, the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse issued a report that covered six decades (from the 1950s).It reported in 2004 that even after these revelations and public outcry, the institutional church had moved allegedly abusive priests out of the countries where they had been accused but assigned them again to "settings that bring them into contact with children, despite church claims to the contrary".According to a Pew Research Center study, media coverage was generated mostly in the United States, beginning in 2002, with a Boston Globe series that published hundreds of news reports.By 2010, much of the reporting focused on abuse in Europe In addition, the studies claim that the rate of abuse by priests had fallen sharply in the last twenty to thirty years, and that some 75% of the allegations in the United States were of abuse between 19.However, the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found that the average time it took between a victim of Catholic sexual abuse being abused and reporting it, or seeking redress, is 33 years.
The first work dedicated to child sexual abuse was published in France in 1857: Medical-Legal Studies of Sexual Assault (Etude Médico-Légale sur les Attentats aux Mœurs), by Auguste Ambroise Tardieu, a noted French pathologist and pioneer of forensic medicine. Gerald Fitzgerald founded the Congregation of the Servants of the Paraclete, a religious order that treats Roman Catholic priests who struggle with personal difficulties such as substance abuse and sexual misconduct.But, in 2002 The Boston Globe reported, "clearly the issue has been most prominent in the United States." According to a Pew Research Center study, in 2002 the media coverage was focused on the US, where a Boston Globe series initiated widespread coverage in the region. In September 2011, a submission was lodged with the International Criminal Court alleging that the Pope, Cardinal Angelo Sodano (Dean of the College of Cardinals), Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone (Cardinal Secretary of State), and Cardinal William Levada (then-current Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) had committed a crime against humanity by failing to prevent or punish perpetrators of rape and sexual violence in a "systematic and widespread" concealment which included failure to co-operate with relevant law enforcement agencies.In a statement to the Associated Press, the Vatican described this as a "ludicrous publicity stunt and a misuse of international judicial processes." Lawyers and law professors emphasized that the case is likely to fall outside the court's jurisdiction.Members of the Church's hierarchy have argued that media coverage was excessive and disproportionate, and they have also argued that such abuse also takes place in other religions and institutions.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 Mc Carthy's film Spotlight in 2015.Cases of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests, nuns and members of religious 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.In a series of letters and reports to high-ranking Catholic leaders starting in the 1950s, Fitzgerald warned of substantial problems with pedophile priests.He wrote, for example, "[sexual abuse] offenders were unlikely to change and should not be returned to ministry." He discussed the problem with Pope Paul VI (1963 – 1978) and "in correspondence with several bishops".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.