The Roman Catholic Church is the largest Christian denomination in the U.S., with 69.1 million current members; nearly one in four Americans (23 percent) is Catholic. The minority church, initially insignificant and suppressed, grew in the 19. The number of immigrants, especially from Ireland, Germany, Italy and Poland, grew strongly in the 19th century. In the 20. and beginning 21. In the twentieth century, immigration from Latin America bolstered Catholicism, especially in the southern and western U.S. With 195 dioceses and about 430 bishops, the U.S. bishops' conference is the third-largest in the universal Catholic Church, after Italy's and Brazil's. Of the 17 U.S. cardinals, 13 are under 80 years old and therefore eligible to be pope. Nationwide, there are 19.000 Catholic parishes, 28.500 world priests and as well as about 86.000 religious. The dioceses are financed exclusively by donations; nevertheless, some of them are among the wealthiest in the world church. Politically, the Catholic electorate was more aligned with the Democrats until the 1970s; the Cold War and the controversy over abortion meant that the Republicans also gained increasing numbers of Catholic supporters. Church's strong position in society results in part from fragmentation of countless Protestant communities in U.S. Another strength is based on the Catholic presence in the school sector. About 2.5 million students of all denominations attend Catholic educational institutions. In addition to kindergartens, the network includes about 6.200 elementary schools, 1.500 colleges and high schools and about 75 universities. In the early 1990s, and especially in a second wave of revelations since 2002, the church's growing reputation was shaken by the scandal of sexual abuse of minors by priests and church employees. Nationwide, about 12.000 victims sued. Corresponding lawsuits and out-of-court settlements often end with the payment of damages. The total cost, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is more than a billion dollars. Several U.S. dioceses came to the brink of insolvency as a result.