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In 1995, Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër resigned from his post as Archbishop of Vienna, Austria over allegations of sexual abuse, although he remained a Cardinal.

In Ireland, the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse issued a report that covered six decades (from the 1950s).

This is not always in contradiction with civil law; the law in many, but not all, countries confers confessional privilege, a rule of evidence that forbids judicial inquiry into certain communications between clergy and members of their congregation.

This may be due in part to the more hierarchical structure of the Church in Third World countries, the "psychological health" of clergy in those regions, and because Third World media, legal systems and public culture are not as apt to thoroughly discuss sexual abuse.

Traditionally, the Roman Catholic Church has held tight control over many aspects of church life around the globe, including "the words used in prayer", but it left sex abuse cases to be handled locally.

According to a 2004 research study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 4,392 Catholic priests and deacons in active ministry between 19 have been plausibly (neither withdrawn nor disproven) accused of under-age sexual abuse by 10,667 individuals.

Estimating the number of priests and deacons active in the same period at 110,000, the report concluded that approximately 4% have faced these allegations.

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