This article examines the sexual abuse scandal that has racked the Roman Catholic Church since 1984, focusing in particular on how the Church's authority structure has responded and how the American civil court system has been used by victims to seek redress. It gives an overview of the Church's legal system, Canon Law, and the way that system and the Church leadership have dealt (or failed to deal) with the problem of sexual abuse. Part II takes a "long look back" to the history of sexual abuse and Canon Law before 1984. Part III details how the Church has dealt with the exploding sexual abuse scandal since 1984, concluding that civil courts should take clericalism, or the religious fear of acting against church authority, into consideration when considering statutes of limitations on actions against abusive priests.

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