Train up a child in the way he should
go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
As far as we can tell pederasty has always been common in the
Church, although its prevalence has only recently been exposed
publicly. Since early times regulations have been necessary
to control the sexual abuse of children. For example rules required
monks to have separate beds, except the younger ones. These
younger ones, mere boys, were "dispersed among the seniors"
according to the Benedictine rule. No doubt the original intention
was good, but one shivvers to think of the amount of abuse it
Cannon Law mentioned sexual intercourse with children, but
only in passing. There is no penalty, for having sex with children,
and the only significance is that children under seven are treated
in the same way as anyone over seven for the purposes of the
law. To take an example, in one legal case the question was
whether a man might marry a girl if he had previously had sexual
intercourse with her seven year old sister. The Pope ruled as
Carnal intercourse with a girl of seven is a diriment impediment
to a marriage later contracted with her blood relatives.
(Decretals of Pope Gregory IX , Book Four, Title XIII Relations
with a Spouse's or Betrothed's Blood Relatives, C7). [the
word diriment means "totally invalidating"]
So in this case the man's marriage to a woman was invalidated
because he had had sex with her seven year old sister, just
as it would have been if he had had sex with her adult sister.
Many religious orders have a long history of widespread accusations
against them - the Jesuits for example were a target for Voltaire
(who was himself educated by Jesuits so presumably knew what
he was talking about).
The prevalence of pederast priests in the Catholic Church is
now widely accepted and dealt with elsewhere on this website