June 1994: The Rev. Brendan Smyth pleads guilty in Northern Ireland to 17 counts of assaulting five girls and two boys. His order, the Norbertines, spent decades shuttling him among Irish and American parishes and harboring him from British arrest. Later that year, Prime Minister Albert Reynolds resigns and his government collapses over charges his attorney general colluded with church authorities to delay the British extradition demand for Smyth.
July 1995: Former altar boy Andrew Madden speaks publicly about his abuse by a priest. He says the Archdiocese of Dublin paid him 35,000 euros to keep quiet. Hundreds of alleged victims file civil lawsuits against church authorities.
July 1997: After serving prison term, Smyth is extradited to Ireland and pleads guilty to 74 counts of sexually abusing 20 children between 1958 and 1993.
March 1999: The Rev. Sean Fortune commits suicide in prison while awaiting trial on 66 charges of molesting and raping boys in the Diocese of Ferns. One victim, Colm O’Gorman, launches support group One in Four.
April 1999: Groundbreaking documentary series “States of Fear’’ exposes abuse of children in church-run workhouses, reformatories, and orphanages since the 1940s.
May 1999: Prime Minister Bertie Ahern issues “long overdue apology’’ to all those abused in church-run institutions.
May 2000: Ireland authorizes a government commission to investigate abuse in church-run institutions.
October 2002: The RTE program “Prime Time’’ broadcasts report, Cardinal Secrets, which later results in the establishment of a government panel to examine abuse in the Archdiocese of Dublin.
December 2002: Ireland establishes a board to pay compensation to those abused in church-run institutions. As of December 2010, the board had received nearly 15,000 applications and awarded compensation to nearly 13,500 people.
April 2004: Vatican diplomat Diarmuid Martin becomes archbishop of Dublin and pledges full cooperation with police in exposing past cover-ups of abuse.
October 2005: A government inquiry determines the church, police, and state authorities did too little to stop the sexual abuse of hundreds of children by 21 priests in Ferns.
May 2009: Government commission issues 2,575-page summary, known as the Ryan Report, documenting widespread abuse of children in church-run institutions, from the 1930s until the last institutions closed in the 1990s.
November 2009: Murphy Commission issues 720-page report that finds sexual abuse by priests in the Archdiocese of Dublin was “widespread’’ and that church leaders were preoccupied with “the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the church, and the preservation of its assets’’ at the expense of protecting children.
December 2009: Pope Benedict XVI accepts the resignation of the bishop of Limerick for his mishandling of abuse complaints as auxiliary bishop in Dublin, documented in Murphy Report.
March 2010: Cardinal Sean Brady, the leader of the Catholic church in Ireland, apologizes for failing to notify police after he collected multiple allegations against Smyth in 1975. Pope Benedict XVI accepts the resignation of the bishop of Cloyne for his mishandling of abuse complaints. Benedict issues letter to Catholics of Ireland in which he announces that the Vatican will commission a “visitation’’ of the Irish church to help it address the sexual abuse crisis.
April 2010: Benedict accepts resignation of the bishop of Kildare and Leighlin.
May 2010: Benedict announces that Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley will lead visitation of the Archdiocese of Dublin.
November 2010: Visitation begins; O’Malley spends a week in Dublin, followed by trips in January and February.
February 2010: O’Malley and Martin hold penitential service to apologize to victims and ask forgiveness; they wash the feet of eight victims of sexual abuse by clergy or employees of the church.
SOURCES: Associated Press, Globe staff