There has been more stories than anyone cares to read about the horrific cases of sexual abuse by priests of the Catholic Church and moreso recently with the Irish, German and Wisconsin cases breaking.
In Defense of the Church
No one can even attempt to defend the men who actually committed these acts. What they did was horrible, wrong, sinful in the worst ways and they deserve some type of punishment–civil, canonical, eternal, etc.
Many church leaders have been targeted for roles they played in handling the cases. I know some leaders, quite honestly, failed. Cardinal Law, seemingly, really screwed up. He’s resigned doing, basically, nothing now. The deputy involved with the German case admits he erred.
I believe, and still do, that in many (most) cases, the leaders were trying to do their best to figure out how to solve the problem in a way that dealt with the issue at hand in a private matter. In the end, who knows if that was the right, or best, way, but most of this was done with no malice on the part of church leaders.
In short, the guilty are guilty, but let’s not throw the entire church under the bus.