Priest Sex Abuse

Problems with pedophile priests go back at least two decades in the U.S. Catholic Church. Click on the arrows to see the widening scandal.
The Rev. Gilbert Gauthe of the Lafayette, La., diocese pleads guilty to molesting 11 boys and admits victimizing dozens more. In a widening scandal, 19 other priests are accused of abuse, and the diocese negotiates costly out-of-court settlements with victims.
The Rev. Thomas Doyle, a canon lawyer for the Vatican embassy in Washington, writes a confidential memo for the nation's Catholic bishops citing 30 cases with 100 victims and projecting a cost to the church of $1 billion over 10 years. Also, journalist Jason Berry writes a nationwide survey of the problem for the National Catholic Reporter, drawing the secular media's attention to it.
Hawaii's Joseph Ferrario becomes the first U.S. bishop accused of molestation. A court dismisses the charges because they were filed too late, but Ferrario, who denied the charges, retires early in 1993.
The Rev. Bruce Ritter, celebrated leader of Covenant House for teen runaways, steps down amid a scandal. He denies an accusation of molestation from one youth, but others step forward to accuse him and the Covenant House board reports extensive misconduct. Ritter's Franciscan superiors in Rome approve a transfer to India, but outrage following a news report about the move forces the plan to be scrapped.
The U.S. bishops take their first major collective action, endorsing a set of principles for handling cases. At the same time, Berry's history of the scandals, "Lead Us Not Into Temptation," estimates 400 priests have been accused, costing the church some $400 million.
The growing victims' rights movement suffers a credibility setback when Steven Cook recants his sensational claim that Chicago's Cardinal Joseph Bernardin had molested him. Bernardin's former archdiocese in Cincinnati paid a settlement to Cook over a seminary teacher's abuse.
A Dallas jury hears charges from 11 victims of ex-priest Rudy Kos and returns a $120-million verdict. The award was later cut to about $30 million, but the diocese needs to take out mortgages and sell property to cover the judgment.
Bishop J. Keith Symons of Palm Beach, Fla., becomes the first U.S. bishop to resign after admitting molestation. That scandal was greatly compounded in 2002 when Bishop Anthony O'Connell, the successor Rome appointed to clean house, resigns for the identical reason.
The Rev. Andrew Greeley, an author and sociologist, writes an introduction for a new edition of Berry's history. The sex abuse situation, he contends, "may be the greatest scandal in the history of religion in America and perhaps the most serious crisis Catholicism has faced since the Reformation."
Jan. 18, 2002
Defrocked Boston priest John Geoghan, 66, is convicted of indecent assault and battery as a priest sex scandal in the archdiocese widens. Geoghan, 66, has been accused of abusing 130 children while he was actively serving as a priest in the Archdiocese of Boston over a 30-year period. He faces more criminal and civil suits.
Feb. 21, 2002
Geoghan is sentenced to 9-10 years in prison as the archdiocese continues to reel from the scandal. The extent of the cover-up and the sheer number of priests involved has shocked Boston's large Catholic community, leading to calls for Cardinal Bernard Law to step down. Meanwhile, new cases are being reported in several other states.
April 16, 2002
Pope John Paul II summons America's cardinals to the Vatican to discuss the sex scandal and efforts to prevent future cases
June 14, 2002
America's Catholic bishops adopt a policy that will strip abusive clergymen of their authority but not automatically oust them from the priesthood. The policy falls short of the "zero tolerance" plan demanded by some abuse victims.
July 8, 2002
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines apologizes for "grave sexual misconduct" by Filipino priests, and promises a protocol to address future cases of abuse. The Philippines is one of Asia's two predominantly Catholic nations; until now only a few individual church leaders acknowledged the problem there.
July 28, 2002

Pope John Paul II speaks publicly for the first time about the sex scandals during an outdoor Mass concluding World Youth Day in Toronto. He tells the crowd of over 800,000 Catholic faithful that the harmful actions of some, "fills us all with a deep sense of sadness and shame."
Oct. 18, 2002
The U.S. Roman Catholic Church's new sexual abuse policy is rejected by the Vatican, which says the plan needs to be revised because elements conflict with universal church law. Most American dioceses have already started working with the policy, and may continue to implement it while the Vatican works through its issues. Victims groups see the rejection as the collapse of the church's reform effort.
Nov. 7, 2002

U.S. Roman Catholic bishops pick the FBI's top-ranking woman to head a new office charged with making sure American church leaders adhere to clerical sex abuse policy. Kathleen McChesney is named director of the Office for Child and Youth Protection, a critical post as the bishops try to re-establish their credibility.
Nov. 13, 2002
U.S. Roman Catholic bishops adopt revisions to their sex abuse policy. The new plan says priests should be removed from public ministry after any act of sex abuse of a minor. Critics say the plan continues the church's history of sheltering sexual predators and abandoning the people they prey on. The bishops' vote follows 10 months in which at least 325 of the nation's 46,000 priests resigned or been removed from their posts because of accusations of sex abuse.
Dec. 12, 2002
The Boston Globe reports a grand jury examining possible criminal acts by Catholic bishops who failed to prevent acts of sexual abuse has subpoenaed Boston Cardinal Bernard Law and five subordinates. Law remained in Rome, where he had flown a few days before.
Dec. 13, 2002

Finally bowing to months of public outrage that he failed to protect children from molesters, Cardinal Bernard Law resigns as Boston archbishop. He is the highest-ranking church leader to fall as a result of the clerical sex abuse crisis. The archdiocese faces lawsuits from more than 400 alleged victims, and Law had taken steps to allow it to file for bankruptcy.
Dec. 16, 2002
The Vatican OKs the revised U.S. bishops' sex abuse policy, allowing bishops to conduct a confidential, preliminary inquiry when a molestation claim is made, then putting the priest on leave and before a tribunal if deemed necessary. The bishops' initial plan permitted pulling priests from their jobs as soon as an accusation is made.
May 3, 2003
In a five-page agreement with a county prosecutor, Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien acknowledges he hid allegations of sex abuse by priests and surrenders some of his authority. The deal is extraordinary, both as a personal statement of wrongdoing and as an agreement between a church leader and civil authority that changes how a diocese does business.
June 15, 2003
Following controversial remarks in which he said some church officials were being as secretive as members of the Mafia, former Oklahoma Gov. Charles Keating says he'll resign as head of the church's national panel on sex abuse. Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony, whom Keating accused of listening "too much to his lawyer and not enough to his heart" in dealing with the panel's investigation, called Keating's comments "the last straw."
June 18, 2003
One day after being charged in a fatal hit-and-run accident and still under fire over allegations he covered up for sexually abusive clergy, Phoenix Bishop Thomas O'Brien resigns from his post.
July 20, 2003
A spokesman for Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly confirms that criminal charges will not be sought against Boston church officials for allowing sexually abusive priests to remain in parish work. According to WBZ-TV, a report due to be released by Reilly's office suggests changes to prevent future abuse but stops short of charges. The report is based in part on an investigation by a state grand jury.
July 23, 2003
A report released by the Massachusetts attorney general's office finds that more than 1,000 people in the Boston Archdiocese were likely the victims of sexual abuse over a period going back to 1940. Attorney General Tom Reilly says former archbishop Cardinal Bernard Law "bears the ultimate responsibility for the tragic treatment of children that occurred during his tenure."
Aug. 6, 2003
CBS News obtains a confidential Vatican document, written in 1962, that lays out a church policy on sexual abuse by priests. The document calls for absolute secrecy when it comes to these cases, warning that anyone who speaks out could be thrown out of the church. The U.S. Conference of Bishops says the document is being taken out of context. Read the official Latin version or the English translation provided to CBS News.
Aug. 8, 2003
Seeking a resolution to the sex abuse crisis, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston offers $55 million to settle more than 500 clergy sex abuse lawsuits, according to a document obtained by The AP. Those who say they were abused as children by clergy would have 30 days to accept the offer, and 95 percent of the claimants would have to participate. Attorney Jeffrey Newman, who represents more than 200 alleged victims, said, "We think it's a very good start, but it's only a start."
Aug. 23, 2003
Defrocked priest and convicted child molester John Geoghan, 68, is strangled in prison by Joseph Druce, another inmate who is serving a life sentence for murder.
Sept. 4, 2003
Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops rejects a plea from priests to allow married men to join the priesthood, questioning whether such a move would increase the number of priests. This was in answer to a request from about 160 Milwaukee priests. The group, more than a quarter of the archdiocese's clerics, called in August for opening the priesthood to married men.
Sept. 9, 2003
In the largest known payout by a U.S. diocese to settle molestation charges, the Boston Archdiocese agrees to pay $85 million to settle more than 500 lawsuits from people who claim priests abused them. Victims will receive awards ranging from $80,000 to $300,000. David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, says of the deal, "For many victims, some kind of official, public acknowledgment that 'We were harmed' can be a real step toward healing."
Feb. 27, 2004
The National Review Board, a lay watchdog panel formed by Catholic bishops, issues two highly anticipated studies documenting the molestation problem. One is the first church-sanctioned tally of abuse cases, finding 10,667 abuse claims against about 4 percent of all American clerics from 1950 to 2002. The second report puts much of the blame on American bishops for not cracking down on errant priests.
May 2004
In a letter from Boston Archbishop Sean O'Malley dated May 3, Paul Shanley is told that Pope John Paul II has decided to remove him from his responsibilities as a priest. The letter says Shanley, a key figure in the clergy sexual abuse scandal, will no longer be eligible for financial support or benefits from the archdiocese.
July 6, 2004
Facing dozens of pending lawsuits accusing clergy of sexual abuse, the archdiocese of Portland, Ore., files for bankruptcy. The Portland church has already paid more than $ 53 million to settle more than 130 abuse claims, and the archbishop says, "The pot of gold is pretty much empty right now." It's believed to be the first time a U.S. archdiocese has filed for bankruptcy.
Sept. 20, 2004
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson, Ariz., becomes the second in the nation to seek bankruptcy protection, in the wake of extensive and continuing legal action stemming from sexual abuse of children by parish priests.
Sept. 24, 2004
Bishop Thomas Dupre is indicted on child rape charges, becoming the first bishop to face charges in the church sex abuse scandal. Dupree was the head of the Springfield, Mass., diocese, but resigned in February after the allegations came to light. His two alleged victims have said Dupre sexually abused them for years in the 1970s and asked them to keep quiet about the abuse when he was made auxiliary bishop in 1990.
Dec. 2, 2004
The Orange County diocese reaches a settlement with 87 victims of clergy abuse. Terms of the agreement are not disclosed, but a source tells the Associated Press the payout will be bigger than the record $85 million agreement with the Boston Archdiocese. The lawsuits allege sexual misconduct by 30 priests, 11 lay personnel and two nuns.
Feb. 7, 2005
Defrocked priest Paul Shanley, the most notorious figure in the sex scandal that rocked the Boston Archdiocese, is convicted of raping and fondling a boy at his church during the 1980s. Shanley, 74, is found guilty of two counts each of child rape and indecent assault and battery on a child, and is later sentenced to 12 to 15 years in prison.
Feb. 18, 2005
In a national audit, Roman Catholic bishops say that over the past year they received 1,092 new allegations of sexual abuse against at least 756 priests and deacons. Most of the incidents are decades old, and the majority of the accused are dead or no longer working in the church. The audit also finds more than 95 percent of dioceses are in compliance with the church's new child protection policy.
June 17, 2005
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops overwhelmingly votes to extend the church's policy of permanently barring sexually abusive clergy from church work. A panel overseeing a mandatory review of the unprecedented 2002 policy concludes that "many, perhaps a majority," of bishops hope to someday ease the permanent ban on offenders, but now is not the time.
Aug. 2005
Daniel Shea, a lawyer who's suing Pope Benedict for allegedly covering up the sexual abuse of children by a seminarian, says he'll challenge U.S. diplomatic recognition of the Vatican if the pope is given immunity as a head of state. In the Texas civil lawsuit, Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict) is accused of conspiring with the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston to cover up the abuse of three boys during the mid-1990s.
Sept. 20, 2005
The U.S. government told a Texas court that Pope Benedict XVI should be given immunity from a lawsuit accusing him of conspiring to cover up the sexual molestation of three boys by a seminarian. Assistant U.S. Attorney General Peter Keisler said in Monday's filing that, as pope, Benedict enjoys immunity as the head of a state the Vatican -- and that allowing the lawsuit to proceed would be "incompatible with the United States' foreign policy interests."
Oct. 12, 2005
Newly released records of sex abuse claims against 126 priests that are at the core of hundreds of lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Los Angeles show that church officials for decades moved accused priests between counseling and new assignments. Read the archdiocese report (.pdf)
Jan. 4, 2007
The Spokane Catholic Diocese has agreed to pay at least $48 million to people molested by priests as a part of a deal to emerge from bankruptcy.
July 16, 2007
A settlement is reached between the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles and hundreds of plaintiffs in a church sex-abuse scandal. The church will pay $660 million, the largest payout in the abuse scandal by far. Cardinal Roger Mahony, leader of the L.A.'s archdiocese, apologized to the hundreds of people who will share the settlement over allegations of clergy sex abuse. "It should not have happened, and it will not happen again," he said. The settlement also calls for the release of priests' confidential personnel files after a review by a judge.
April 15, 2008
During a flight to the U,S. for his first papal visit, Pope Benedict says the sexual abuse scandal involving U.S. clergy makes him "deeply ashamed." He is pledging to make sure pedophiles do not become priests. He says it's "more important to have good priests than many priests."