Although nationwide inquiries have been conducted only in the United States and Ireland, also an Australian inquiry into institutional responses, cases of clerical sexual abuse of minors have been reported and prosecuted in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and other countries.In 1994, allegations of sexual abuse of 47 young seminarians surfaced in Argentina.In Ireland, the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse issued a report that covered six decades (from the 1950s).

Members of the Church's hierarchy have argued that media coverage was excessive and disproportionate, and that such abuse 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 dramatized in the 2015 film Spotlight.

By 2010, much of the reporting focused on abuse in Europe.

In addition, the studies claim that the rate of abuse by priests had fallen sharply in the last twenty to thirty years, and that some 75% of the cases in the United States occurred between 19.

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.

Many of the cases span several decades and are brought forward years after the abuse occurred.

Cases of sexual abuse (particularly of children) and subsequent cover-ups committed in the 20th and 21st centuries by Catholic priests, nuns, and members of Roman Catholic orders 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.