Catholic sex abuse cases
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The Catholic sex abuse cases are a series of convictions, trials and ongoing investigations into allegations of sex crimes committed by Catholic priests and members of religious orders. These cases began receiving public attention beginning in the mid-1980s. There have been criminal prosecutions of the abusers and civil lawsuits against the church's dioceses and parishes.
Sexual abuse of minors by priests receives significant media attention in Canada, Ireland, the United States, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Belgium, France, and Germany, while cases have been reportedthroughout the world.
In addition to cases of abuse, much of the scandal has focused around members of the Catholic hierarchy who did not report abuse allegations to the civil authorities. In many cases they reassigned those accused to other locations where they continued to have contact with minors. In defending their actions, some bishops and psychiatrists contended that the prevailing psychology of the times suggested that people could be cured of such behavior through counseling. Members of the church hierarchy have argued that media coverage has been excessive.
In response to the widening scandal, Pope John Paul II emphasized the spiritual nature of the offenses. He declared in 2001 that "a sin against the Sixth Commandment of the Decalogue by a cleric with a minor under 18 years of age is to be considered a grave sin, or delictum gravius." With the approval of the Vatican, the hierarchy of the church in the United States said that it instituted reforms to prevent future abuse including requiring background checks for Church employees and volunteers, while opposing extensions of the statutes of limitations in sex abuse cases.