Timeline: US Catholic Sex Scandal

BBC News [United States]
Downloaded February 8, 2005

The main events in the ongoing sex abuse scandal involving the US Roman Catholic Church and in particular the Boston Archdiocese, which has been at the centre of many of the highest-profile accusations.

1984: Bernard Law is appointed archbishop of Boston, and elevated to cardinal a year later.

1985: Sex abuse by priests becomes a national issue in the US for the first time, as Louisiana priest Gilbert Gauthe pleads guilty to 11 counts of molestation of boys.

1992-3: The Reverend James Porter of Fall River diocese, Massachusetts, is accused of abusing children in five US states in the 1960s and 1970s. He later pleads guilty to 41 counts of abuse.

1992: US bishops meeting in South Bend, Indiana, admit attempts by some of their number to hide abuse.

1993: First legal proceedings brought against Dallas diocese over sex abuse by the priest Rudolph Kos.

13 July, 1998: Dallas diocese forced to pay more than $31m to victims of Kos.

1999: Former Massachusetts priest John Geoghan indicted on child rape charges.

8 January, 2002: Vatican publishes guidelines on how to deal with paedophile priests, saying all cases should be reported to Rome.

9 January: Cardinal Law apologises to victims of John Geoghan and promises a tougher line on abusive priests in future.

18 January: Geoghan convicted of indecent assault and battery of a 10-year-old boy, for which he later receives a 10-year prison sentence.

4 April: Two US men, in Florida and Oregon, begin legal action which symbolically names the Vatican for its alleged role in covering up sex abuse cases.

8 April: File released on the Rev Paul Shanley, alleging he publicly advocated sex between men and boys and still received the backing of the archdiocese for his ministry.

23 April: Pope John Paul II calls emergency meeting with US cardinals in Rome.

2 May: Paul Shanley arrested in California and later charged on three counts of child rape. He denies the charges.

13 June: US bishops approve "zero tolerance" national policy on abuse, but the Vatican demands changes to protect rights of priests.

17 September: Boston Jesuit priest James Talbot charged with raping and assaulting three teenaged students.

19 September: The Boston Archdiocese reaches $10m settlement with victims of John Geoghan, retracting a previous settlement of $30m which the Church said would have bankrupted the archdiocese.

3 November: Cardinal Law apologises for "decisions which led to suffering".

13 November: US bishops meet in Washington and approve revised policy on abusive priests which takes account of Vatican concerns.

On the same day, Roman Catholic activists from the Survivors First group launch an online database listing 573 US priests accused of involvement in paedophilia since 1996, later dropping 100 of the names.

3 December: New revelations about eight priests in Boston archdiocese accused of abusing women and girls, taking drugs and supplying drugs in return for sexual favours.

6 December: Cardinal Law leaves for the Vatican, on the same day that he reportedly is ordered to appear before a grand jury investigating sex abuse allegations.

13 December: Cardinal Law resigns as archbishop.

April 2003: The Boston Archdiocese avoids bankruptcy by agreeing to sell land and buildings for over $100m to fund legal settlements to more than 500 abuse victims.

24 August: John Geoghan is killed in a Massachusetts prison.

27 February 2004: A report commissioned by the Church says more than 4,000 US Roman Catholic priests had faced sexual abuse allegations in the last 50 years, in cases involving more than 10,000 children - mostly boys.

1 July: The key accuser of defrocked priest Paul Shanley is dropped from the case by prosecutors.

7 July: In an unprecedented move, the Portland Archdiocese files for bankruptcy because of the huge costs from clergy sex abuse lawsuits.

The action halts a trial of a lawsuit seeking some $155m against the late Rev Maurice Grammond, who was accused of molesting more than 50 boys in the 1980s.

28 September: Prosecutors drop a case against former Massachusetts bishop Thomas Dupre, hours after he is charged with raping two children in the 1970s.

15 November: US Roman Catholic bishops elect Bishop William Skylstad as their new president. His Washington diocese faces bankruptcy due to the volume of compensation claims made by alleged victims of child abuse.

3 December: After two years of talks, the diocese of Orange County, California, settles a sex abuse lawsuit brought by 87 plaintiffs for an unspecified sum. The diocese later says the package is worth $100m (?53m).

7 February: A US court convicts Paul Shanley of four charges relating to offences committed in the 1980s including rape and indecent assault.