For this reason there is insufficient data to be able to accurately ascertain current rates of child sex abuse, or to claim that abuse in the Catholic Church has fallen in recent decades.
The Commission revealed 7% of Australian priests between 1950–2009 were accused of abusing children, and that one Catholic order had 40.4% of their non-ordained members with allegations against them in this period.
Many of the cases span several decades and are brought forward years after the abuse occurred.
Although nationwide inquiries have been conducted only in the United States and Ireland, as well as an Australian inquiry into institutional responses, cases of clerical sexual abuse of minors have been reported and prosecuted in New Zealand, Canada and other countries.
In a series of letters and reports to high-ranking Catholic leaders starting in the 1950s, Fitzgerald warned of substantial problems with pedophile priests.
In Ireland, the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse issued a report that covered six decades (from the 1950s).
It reported in 2004 that even after these revelations and public outcry, the institutional church had moved allegedly abusive priests out of the countries where they had been accused but assigned them again to "settings that bring them into contact with children, despite church claims to the contrary".
According to a Pew Research Center study, media coverage was generated mostly in the United States, beginning in 2002, with a Boston Globe series that published hundreds of news reports.
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of Catholic Bishops, 4,392 Catholic priests and deacons in active ministry between 19 have been plausibly (neither withdrawn nor disproven) accused by 10,667 individuals of the sexual abuse of a youth under the age of 18.
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.