I simply do not know what has happened in the Church, and I don’t know how we ever know.
About 5 % of priests in the U.S. have been sexually involved with minors; that is certain.
But what about other countries and times?
The German bishops have not released the number of accused priests, but there have been thousands of accusations.
However in the 1930s the Nazis searched diligently for evidence to discredit the Church. Apart from two exceptional orders of lay brothers, they could only make charges against 50 priests, and most of those were acquitted. Did the Nazis miss massive abuse among the clergy? They tended to be thorough and none too gentle in their questioning.
Pepe Rodriguez estimates about 7% of Spanish priests have been sexually involved with minors. That is in line with American data. But Spanish anticlericalism has a long and bizarre history. Rodriguez is a sociologist, but he has also written a book “exposing” the pagan source of Christmas customs, another book “exposing” the Bible, and a third book praising Freemasonry. His judgment may be skewed.
But St. Peter Damian gave a scathing account of the clergy in the middle ages.
So what to make of all this? Has abuse risen and fallen, or have the cover-ups been more or less successful?
If abuse varies from diocese to diocese (from 0% to over 10% of priests in the U.S. dioceses), Why?
If abuse varies from decade to decade, and century to century, Why?
These are important questions, and I see no effort by the hierarchy to try to resolve them.