A History Of Clergy Abuse Cases

Many victims of clergy abuse remain silent for years, perhaps even a lifetime, due to feelings of shame and confusion. With so many victims afraid to speak, it is very difficult to assess the true impact of this heinous form of sexual abuse throughout history. In recent decades, however, more and more victims have begun sharing their stories about clergy sexual abuse. As a result, a more vivid picture is being painted of this unforgivable crime.

Listed below are the most prominent clergy abuse cases of the last 2 decades. Remember, prior to the mid-80s, clergy abuse was a little-known crime.


•    Bernard Law promoted to cardinal of Boston archdiocese. He would later become a central figure in the sexual abuse cases of this archdiocese, due to allegations he covered up accusations of abuse by priests.
•    Priest Gilbert Gauthe of Louisiana pleads guilty to molesting 11 boys. This was the first clergy sexual abuse case to receive national attention.

1992 – 1993

•    Reverend James Porter of Massachusetts pleads guilty to abusing 41 children in 5 states during the 1960s and 1970s.
•    Legal proceedings brought against the Dallas diocese because of sexual abuse committed by Priest Rudolph Kos.

1998 – 1999

•    Dallas diocese agrees to more than $31 million for crimes committed by Rudolph Kos.
•    Former Priest John Geoghan of Massachusetts indicted on child rape charges.


•    Pope John Paul II calls an emergency meeting with U.S. Cardinals in Rome. Later this year, U.S. bishops approve a policy on dealing with priests accused of sexual abuse.
•    Vatican publishes its first guidelines on how to deal with accused priests. This is more than 15 years after the first reports of abuse by priest Gilbert Gauthe.
•    Boston Archdiocese reaches a $10 million settlement with the victims of John Geoghan, and Cardinal Law apologizes to his victims. Geoghan is convicted later this year and is sentenced to 10 years in prison.
•    Cardinal Law resigns as Archbishop of Boston and is reassigned to the Vatican. This occurs prior to appearing before a grand jury that is investigating sexual abuse allegations.
•    Sexual abuse charges are brought against the Vatican in Florida and Oregon, naming the Vatican for its role in the cover up.


•    John Geoghan is killed in a Massachusetts prison.
•    Boston Archdiocese sells land and buildings for over $100 million to fund additional legal settlements for over 500 sexual abuse victims.


•    A reported commissioned by the Catholic Church states that more than 4000 Catholic priests (approximately 4%) had faced sexual abuse allegations in the past 50 years, with cases involving more than 10,000 children, mostly boys.
•    Portland archdiocese files for bankruptcy due to the costs of clergy sexual abuse lawsuits. Most of the costs are due to lawsuits against Reverend Maurice Grammond, accused of molesting more than 50 boys in the 1980s.


•    The diocese of Sacramento, California agrees to pay $35 million to 33 abuse victims.
•    The diocese of Oakland, California agrees to pay $56 million to 56 abuse victims.

2006 – 2007

•    The archdiocese of Los Angeles agrees to pay $60 million to settle 45 cases of sexual abuse by priests.
•    Later in the year, this archdiocese settles an additional 508 cases of sexual abuse by priests for $660 million. The deal is reached just before a series of trials were to start for cases dating back to the 1940s.
•    The diocese of San Diego agrees to pay $198 to settle 144 cases of sexual abuse by clergy.
•    The diocese of Spokane, Washington agrees to pay $48 million to abuse victims.

2008 – 2009

•    Pope Benedict XVI apologizes for child sexual abuse by priests, stating that those responsible for these evils must be brought to justice.
•    The diocese of Covington, Kentucky agrees to pay $79 million to 240 abuse victims.
•    Many individual lawsuits continue to be filed against priests in parishes across the U.S.

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