Members of the Church's hierarchy have argued that media coverage was excessive and disproportionate, and they have also argued that such abuse also takes place in other religions and institutions.
A critical investigation by The Boston Globe in 2002 led to widespread media coverage of the issue in the United States, which was later dramatized in Tom Mc Carthy's film Spotlight in 2015.
This may be due in part to the more hierarchical structure of the Church in Third World countries, the "psychological health" of clergy in those regions, and because Third World media, legal systems and public culture are not as apt to thoroughly discuss sexual abuse.
Traditionally, the Roman Catholic Church has held tight control over many aspects of church life around the globe, including "the words used in prayer", but it left sex abuse cases to be handled locally.
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.
By the 1990s, the cases began to receive significant media and public attention in some countries, especially in Ireland, Canada, Australia, and the United States and were widespread by the 2000s.
In July 2010, the Vatican doubled the length of time after the 18th birthday of the victim in which clergymen can be tried in a church court.
It also streamlined the processes for removing pedophile priests.
Cases of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests, nuns and members of religious orders, and subsequent cover-ups, in the 20th and 21st centuries have led to numerous allegations, investigations, trials and convictions.
The abused include boys and girls, some as young as 3 years old, with the majority between the ages of 11 and 14.