Timeline of a crisis

National Catholic Reporter
July 6, 2015

Editor's note: This timeline is part of a weeklong series dedicated to looking back on 30 years of the abuse crisis in the Catholic church. Read all parts of the series.

1962: Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald, founder of the Paraclete Center to aid troubled priests in Jimenez Springs, N.M., meets with Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, head of the Holy Office in Rome, to warn him that there is no cure for pedophile priests.

1964: Fitzgerald meets with the new pope, Paul VI, to repeat his warnings.

1985: In May, Dominican Fr. Thomas Doyle, Fr. Michael Peterson and Ray Mouton present a 92-page document to a committee of the U.S. bishops' conference, warning them to handle pending cases well, defend victims, and be honest with the public.

In June, NCR publishes its first exposé and editorial on sex abuse crisis. The story is based on Jason Berry's reporting of the case of Fr. Gilbert Gauthe of Lafayette, La., who ultimately served 10 years of a 20-year sentence for molesting children.

1988: Barbara Blaine in Chicago starts the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

1992: U.S. bishops approve guidelines for handling sex abuse cases, but the guidelines are voluntary and not universally applied. They are later viewed as a failure.

1997: Eleven plaintiffs sue the Dallas diocese and a suspended 52-year-old priest. The plaintiffs charge that the priest, Rudolph Kos, molested altar boys in three Dallas parishes from 1981 to 1992. The diocese eventually pays $31 million to Kos' victims.

Fr. James Porter, who admitted to abusing more than 100 boys and girls in several parishes in the Boston archdiocese, is sentenced to 18-20 years in a maximum-security prison for abusing 28 children. He dies in 2005.

The Hartford Courant reports that former students have accused Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, Mexican-born founder of the Legion of Christ, of sexually abusing them. A Vatican investigation ensues but is closed down in 2001 by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

2002: In January, Judge Constance Sweeney orders Boston Cardinal Bernard Law to turn over 10,000 pages of records. The Boston Globe uses this evidence to initiate an extensive series on clerical sexual abuse in archdiocese.

John Geoghan, a former Boston priest accused of abusing more than 130 children during his 30 years as a priest, is convicted of molesting a child in 1991 and sentenced to 9-10 years in prison. He is killed the following year by another inmate.

On April 23, Pope John Paul II calls emergency meeting with U.S. cardinals in Rome to discuss the crisis.

The U.S. bishops, meeting in Dallas in June, adopt the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People."

Law resigns as archbishop of Boston Dec. 13.

2004: The John Jay College of Criminal Justice releases a study sponsored by the U.S. bishops. It reports 10,667 complaints of sexual abuse against 4,392 priests and deacons between 1950 and 2002.

First diocese to declare bankruptcy over payments for pedophilia cases is in Portland, Ore. Since then, other dioceses filing have included: Tucson, Ariz.; Spokane, Wash.; Davenport, Iowa; San Diego; Fairbanks, Alaska; Wilmington, Del.; and Milwaukee. So, too, has the Jesuits' Oregon Province.

2005: Another former Boston priest, Paul Shanley, 74, is sentenced to 12-15 years in prison for child rape in the 1980s.

2006: The Vatican reopens investigation of Maciel and finds him guilty of sexual abuse of minors. Pope Benedict XVI orders him to stop public ministry and adopt a "life of prayer and penitence."

2007: The Los Angeles archdiocese agrees to pay $660 million to settle abuse claims brought by more than 500 people. Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony says the settlement, along with a $60 million abuse settlement in 2006, will compel the archdiocese to re-evaluate its ministries and services.

2008: Benedict, in a plane on way to the United States, declares he is "deeply ashamed" of U.S. priest sex abuse scandal. Two years later, he is criticized for his handling of abuse cases as archbishop of Munich.

2010: The global scope of the scandal comes into focus. Three hundred former Catholic students in Germany say they were victims of physical or sexual abuse by priests. Brazil investigates allegations that three priests sexually abused altar boys. Investigations in Ireland document child abuse and cover-ups from the 1930s to 1990s, involving more than 15,000 children.

2011: The Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus, which covers Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Alaska and Montana, reaches a settlement of $166.1 million for more than 500 cases of clergy sexual abuse.

2012: Msgr. William Lynn, diocesan vicar in Philadelphia, is found guilty of covering up pedophile priests. (Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, his superior, was scheduled to testify in the case but died the night before his court date).

Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., is first U.S. bishop criminally convicted of failing to report suspected child abuse.

2014: Pope Francis meets with victims of sexual abuse. He also establishes Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

2015: In April, Finn resigns. In June, Archbishop John Nienstedt and Auxiliary Bishop Lee Anthony Piché of St. Paul-Minneapolis also resign. Mishandling of clergy sex abuse cases is understood as reason for Vatican seeking the resignations.

On June 10, Francis announces establishment of a new office at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to serve as a tribunal to judge bishops who have mishandled abuse cases.


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