How widespread is the problem of clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church?

In November 2022, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, addressed this question in an interview with America Magazine:
“The problem of sexual abuse is extremely serious in society. When I held the meeting of the presidents of the bishops’ conferences three and a half years ago, I asked for official statistics and [I learned that] 42 percent to 46 percent of abuses occur in the family home or in the neighborhood. After that in prevalence comes the world of sport, then that of education, and 3 percent [of abusers] are Catholic priests. One could say, ‘That is good, we are few.’ No! If there had been only one case, it would have been monstrous. The abuse of minors is one of the most monstrous things. The practice, which is still maintained in some families and institutions today, was to cover it up. The Church made the decision to not cover up [anymore]. From there, progress was made in judicial processes, the creation of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors….The Church takes responsibility for its own sin, and we go forward, sinners, trusting in the mercy of God.” 

What is the status of abuse cases in the United States?

The latest report on the Implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops indicates that new cases of sexual misconduct by priests involving minors are rare today in the U.S. Catholic Church.
“Today, every diocese in the United States has a victims assistance office and safe environment coordinator, and a consistent, reliable relationship with law enforcement and elected officials,” said Deacon Bernie Nojadera, executive director Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection. Deacon Nojadera also said that abuse can be found across society, and what the Catholic Church is doing is providing an example for other segments of society.
The USCCB is the only organization in the country to commission an independent study by researchers at John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York to examine the causes and context of the clergy abuse crisis in the U.S. Catholic Church.

How extensive are clergy sexual abuse allegations in the Archdiocese of San Francisco?

As Pope Francis indicated, even one case of abuse is monstrous. The three-year window established by California’s Child Victims Act – also known as Assembly Bill 218 (AB 218) – which temporarily set aside the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse victims to file claims, closed on December 31, 2022. This “lookback window” opened a three-year period for those of any age to revive past claims that may have been prohibited from being filed as lawsuits because the legal time limit to bring such claims—known as the statute of limitations—had run out.

Since AB-218 was signed into law in 2019, there have been more than 500 lawsuits filed alleging sexual abuse associated with clergy, volunteers or those who work for the Archdiocese of San Francisco. These cases date back more than 50 years, and a vast majority of those being accused are dead. In addition to deceased individuals who can no longer respond to these claims or defend themselves, a great number of these allegations include names of alleged abusers who are unknow to the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

While it is critically important to ensure justice for victim survivors, it is also important to protect the reputations of priests who have been falsely accused. A 2004 report by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice found that of the 109,664 priests ordained between 1950 and 2002 at the 195 dioceses studied (98% of all those in the United States), 4,392, or 4.4%, were accused of child sexual abuse, a figure Newsweek said was comparable to the rate of abuse in the general population. The John Jay Report found abuse cases increased during the 1960s and reached a peak during the 1970s before declining in the 1980s and further in the 90s—findings that mirror the Archdiocese own analysis of 3,832 personnel files of priests working at the Archdiocese between 1950 and 2019. Only 2.3% of the priests were accused of sexual abuse, 90% of the incidents occurring prior to 2002.

As a result of the diligent work and dedication of the Office of Child and Youth Protection staff and the clergy and lay faithful who participate in the program, new cases of clergy sexual abuse are rare today in the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Yet, we remain steadfast in our commitment to protect children, report allegations and remove perpetrators from ministry.

What is the process for reporting a case of sexual abuse?

Those who have reason to believe or suspect that a child has been or is being abused within the Archdiocese involving clergy, employees, volunteers, children attending Catholic schools, parish religious education programs, or other church-related events, should report the allegation first to civil authorities and then to the Archdiocese’s Victim Assistance Coordinator, Rocio Rodriguez at [email protected] or by calling (415) 614-5506.

Allegations of abuse by an Archbishop or Bishop should be reported to the Catholic Bishop Abuse Reporting Service at or by calling 800-276-1562 to initiate an investigation.
Every allegation is treated seriously and discreetly, and immediate steps are taken to protect the confidentiality and the rights of both alleged victim-survivors and abusers.
More information on reporting abuse and support services for victim-survivors can be found on the Archdiocese Protecting Children website.

Contact us

The Victim Assistance Coordinator (VAC) is a licensed therapist and can be reached directly at (415) 614-5506, a secure line. The VAC is available to help victims-survivors make a formal complaint to the Archdiocese and offers assistance with psychotherapy, spiritual direction, and referrals to other supportive services. The Archdiocese maintains a Victim-Survivor Help Line at (415) 614-5503, a secure line answered by victim-survivors.

CLICK HERE to access a list of names of priests and deacons in good standing who have faculties to minister in the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

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