Having had to deal with this issue in various places on the internet, maybe I can help explain some things.
In advance I just want to say that the purpose of this post is not to excuse or defend the acts that were committed against any child, to defend the actions of any pedophile. They are truly heinous and completely inexcusable.
First of all, you should know that the problem is not a continuing one. The cases that you hear of, almost without exception, happened more than ten years ago, most over twenty years ago. The Church has taken measures to reduce the source of these problems more than any other organization. You are far safer, right now, leaving your child with a Catholic priest than with any public school teacher, Protestant pastor, or daycare provider. That fact has to do with the fact that the Church has
been under such scrutiny and so has had to analyze and root out the source of the problem.
And in fact, the problem would not be classified as "pedophilia" at all, but rather a mix of different disorders. Pedophilia refers to inappropriate sexual contact with someone under a certain age, I believe it to be 10 and under, and psychologically comes from a different source from what problem happened more commonly (yet still rarely) which was called pederasty or ephebophilia. Those acts having been committed by a grown person and an older child, most often are statistically linked to homosexual tendencies. That is, by percentage, more people who have same sex relations are likely to initiate inappropriate sexual contact with a minor (who is within that 10-17 age range) than a person without homosexual tendencies. Since, by sheer number, more people are attracted to persons of the opposite sex than are attracted by persons of the same sex, the raw number of cases of inappropriate contact between the sexes outnumber the cases of same-sex pederasty, but by percentage, same-sex pederasty is more likely per-individual with someone who has same-sex tendency.
The reason I brought that up was because 75% of the cases that happened were not technically pedophilia at all, but rather same-sex pederasty. And since this problem is much more a problem in homosexual men than heterosexual men (per person, that is, a homosexual man is 10x more likely to commit pederasty than a heterosexual man), the problem can be and was vastly reduced by both removing priests from the priesthood who have same-sex attraction and also no longer ordaining men who confess a same-sex attraction.
The other aspect of this scandal can be understood by understanding how psychologists have looked at the problem of pedophilia over the 20th century. It used to be believed that psychological therapy could be successful at enabling people to overcome their problem (attraction to children, boys). That was the most prevalent and accepted position in the 60s. So some persons in the church, since the church by nature is merciful, took priests who confessed to having this problem and put them in psychological counseling, and often they were declared "cured" by the therapists then the priests were allowed to continue in their ministry. We now know that these so-called "cures" were not cures at all, and the therapy theory was wrong. But the Church was acting in the most merciful and correct way that they knew how at the time. And laws of reporting to authorities are more strict now than they were when the cases happened.
That is not to say that mistakes were not made, and obviously many terrible sins were committed. Priests are human like everyone else, but yet we hold them to a much higher standard (it seems all of society does) and so that makes the scandal even more scandalous. But know that many measures are being taken in the Church hierarchy that are not being reported by the media, and truly the number of priests actually committing the crimes was quite small. By removing homosexuals from the priesthood, the Church will effectively have a much, much lower rate of sexual abuse on minors than in possible in virtually any other organization going forward to the future.
I have statistics to back all of this up, in particular, something called the John Jay report. If you want to know more, I suggest taking a listen to this program:http://www.catholicradiointernational.com/abodyoftruth/mp3/abot_050108.mp3