The fact that there has been a lot of sexual abuse by priests stopped being a secret among priests in the 19th century! In fact, in 1890 instructions were given from Rome on how to handle cases. Because of the alarm that the mis-handlng of cases was creating. In these thorough written instructions, it was said to be a crime even worse than murder and one that must be investigated. Permission was given--in fact, it was expected protocol--that the "privileged communication" question was not covered by this crime. Even back then, there was no assumption made about numbers being few. What's more, they recognized that most of the victims were female--a fact that many of us suspect today, but it's hard to get the hard facts when so many are afraid to speak.
All of this was presented by Patrick Wall at this year's SNAP conference. Wall is a renouned consultant in legal proceedings that call the Church into accountability these days. He's also a former priest, putting him in the camp with many of us who have been professionals formerly working for the institutional church in some aspect, yet unwilling to continue playing the games of collusion.
Problem was those instructions from Rome seem to have been ignored by the masses! So much for following orders from Rome! Maybe that's done only if it's convenient?
As the problems grew, it seems that there was far more concern with controlling the messengers and evidence of the massive trends of cover-up. In 1941, bishops were further instructed to destroy documents of criminals 10 years after the death of the criminal.
By 1958 a property growing with inhabitants was shut down. This happened because tourists discovered this island in the British Isle's that was the home of abusive priests who had been sent there to contain them.
In 1964, a study revealed that half of the priests in treatment were there for substance abuse. The other half for abuse of children (30%) or "affairs of the heart" (20%). The latter, of course, were mis-labelled. This 20% was the abuse of vulnerable adults.
And the beat goes on. Only history will tell us if the number of adults who come forward with stories, when they are strong enough to do so, is reduced in decades to come.
What it will really be showing is whether the Church has faced it's shame and negative "pride" and replaced it with a genuine and well-earned pride that is a sign of spiritual health and courage. For it's courage that is the hardest quality of all to muster, the one shortest in supply.