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In a statement to the Associated Press, the Vatican described this as a "ludicrous publicity stunt and a misuse of international judicial processes." Lawyers and law professors emphasized that the case is likely to fall outside the court's jurisdiction. Gerald Fitzgerald founded the Congregation of the Servants of the Paraclete, a religious order that treats Roman Catholic priests who struggle with personal difficulties such as substance abuse and sexual misconduct.
In a series of letters and reports to high-ranking Catholic leaders starting in the 1950s, Fitzgerald warned of substantial problems with pedophile priests.
The report noted that "It is impossible to determine from our surveys what percent of all actual cases of abuse that occurred between 19 have been reported to the Church and are therefore in our dataset." The Augustin Cardinal Bea, S. specializes in abuse counseling and is considered an expert on clerical abuse; he states "approximately 4% of priests during the past half century (and mostly in the 1960s and 1970s) have had a sexual experience with a minor.".
Allegations of and convictions for sexual abuse by clergy have occurred in many countries.
Church authorities are often accused of covering up cases of sex abuse.
From 2001 to 2010 the Holy See, the central governing body of the Catholic Church, considered sex abuse allegations involving about 3,000 priests dating back fifty years, Members of the Church's hierarchy have argued that media coverage was excessive and disproportionate, and that such abuse also takes place in other religions and institutions, a stance that dismayed critics who saw it as a device to avoid resolving the abuse problem within the Church.
According to a 2004 research study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 4,392 Catholic priests and deacons in active ministry between 19 have been plausibly (neither withdrawn nor disproven) accused of under-age sexual abuse by 10,667 individuals.
Estimating the number of priests and deacons active in the same period at 110,000, the report concluded that approximately 4% have faced these allegations.
In 1995, Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër resigned from his post as Archbishop of Vienna, Austria over allegations of sexual abuse, although he remained a Cardinal.
In Ireland, the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse issued a report that covered six decades (from the 1950s).