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The accusations began to receive isolated, sporadic publicity in the late 1980s.Many of these involved cases in which a figure was accused of abuse for decades; such allegations were frequently made by adults or older youths years after the abuse occurred.The sexual abuse of children under the age of consent by priests has received significant media and public attention in the United States, Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Belgium, France, Germany and Australia.Cases have also been reported in other nations throughout the world.In a series of letters and reports to high-ranking Catholic leaders starting in the 1950s, Fitzgerald warned of substantial problems with pedophile priests.He wrote, for example, "[sexual abuse] offenders were unlikely to change and should not be returned to ministry." He discussed the problem with Pope Paul VI (1963 – 1978) and "in correspondence with several bishops".The American Psychiatric Association states that "children cannot consent to sexual activity with adults," and condemns any such action by an adult as "a criminal and immoral act which never can be considered normal or socially acceptable behavior." Child sex abuse has gained public attention in the past few decades and has become one of the most high-profile crimes.Since the 1970s, child molestation and the sexual abuse of children has increasingly been recognized as deeply damaging to children and thus unacceptable for society as a whole.
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.
But, in 2002 The Boston Globe reported, "clearly the issue has been most prominent in the United States." According to a Pew Research Center study, in 2002 the media coverage was focused on the US, where a Boston Globe series initiated widespread coverage in the region. In September 2011, a submission was lodged with the International Criminal Court alleging that the Pope, Cardinal Angelo Sodano (Dean of the College of Cardinals), Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone (Cardinal Secretary of State), and Cardinal William Levada (then-current Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) had committed a crime against humanity by failing to prevent or punish perpetrators of rape and sexual violence in a "systematic and widespread" concealment which included failure to co-operate with relevant law enforcement agencies.
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.
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.