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Catholic sex abuse scandals: Three key cases facing Pope Benedict

The latest Catholic sex abuse scandals are confronting Pope Benedict with what one Catholic newspaper calls the "largest institutional crisis in centuries." In Germany, the church announced a hotline for victims of abuse. A summary of key cases that happened on Benedict's watch.

By Correspondent / March 30, 2010

Children attend a rehearsal for Holy Week performances at the Regina Mundi Roman Catholic Church in, Soweto, South Africa, Tuesday. Catholic sex abuse scandals have surfaced recently in Ireland, Holland, Italy, and in Pope Benedict's home country of Germany.

Denis Farrell/AP


Dublin, Ireland

Pope Benedict XVI is confronting the greatest crisis the Roman Catholic Church has faced since at least 2002, when a wave of scandals and lawsuits in the US hit the church. At that time, the Boston Globe uncovered the abuse of children by priests in the Archdiocese of Boston and provided evidence that church superiors had covered up their crimes.

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Now, evidence of sexual abuse is once more rocking the church. But this time, it's global in scope, with fresh claims of abuse of boys and girls by priests in the US, Ireland, Holland, Italy, and in Pope Benedict's home country of Germany.

This week, the church in Germany announced it would set up a hotline for victims of sexual abuse under Bishop Stephan Ackermann. At a mass at St. Peter's on Sunday, Pope Benedict referred to faith helping Catholics not being "intimidated" by "petty gossip."

IN PICTURES: Pope Benedict XVI

Some commentators see the current crisis as more than a global repeat of 2002, however. In a Friday editorial, the National Catholic Reporter called the new abuse scandals before Pope Benedict the "largest institutional crisis in centuries, possibly in church history." The Catholic Reporter wrote "the Holy Father needs to directly answer questions, in a credible forum, about his role – as archbishop of Munich (1977-82), as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (1982-2005), and as pope (2005-present) – in the mismanagement of the clergy sex abuse crisis."

This time around, there are allegations that Pope Benedict, who was known as Cardinal Josef Ratzinger until being named pontiff, either covered up for or was indifferent to allegations of abuse by priests under his authority. Church spokesmen have said the current pope never knowingly reassigned priests accused of sexual abuse to work with children again or otherwise covered up allegations of crimes.

The following cases are under scrutiny for their potential direct connection to the pope.

St. John's school for the deaf, USA