One of the most painful episodes in the history of the church, across the country and in South Florida, was the scandal that broke in 2000 about sexual abuse of young people by priests.
Between January and June 2000, at least 300 of the nation's 46,000 Catholic priests were removed. Two hundred more were removed later.
South Florida was not exempt. In a 2007 report titled ''Protecting God's Children'' on its website at www.miamiarch.org, the Archdiocese of Miami says that since it was founded in 1958, allegations of sexual misconduct involving minors have been made involving 49 priests out of the 4,433 priests who have served in that time.
It said its insurance programs have paid to date $26.1 million in settlement, legal and counseling costs linked to 129 claims involving priests, laity and religious brothers and sisters.
In a letter with the report, Archbishop John Favalora said the archdiocese now complies with the reforms decreed in June 2002 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in regard to reporting allegations of sexual abuse to civil authorities. And he said the archdiocese set up a Safe Environment Program and appointed a Victims' Assistance Coordinator to ensure the safety of children. He said the archdiocese has fingerprinted nearly 20,000 church employees, volunteers and clergy members who have access to children.
Aventura attorney Jeffrey Herman said he filed about 50 lawsuits and has settled about 40 of them for amounts ``well into the millions.''
''I think the church's response is driven by financial exposure,'' he said. ``Even after the scandal hit, there were priests they weren't coming clean about. Things are certainly better now, but I continue to get calls on recent cases.''