The biggest religion news story of 2002 was a January-to-December drama of distressing proportions. It very well could have been a virtual nonstory, observers say, if the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S. had vigorously confronted priestly sexual abuse of minors when the crisis surfaced in the 1980s and simmered in the 1990s.
But in January the cover-up of molestation cases were unveiled publicly in the Boston archdiocese at the trial of a priest, once treated for pedophilia, who was convicted of molesting a boy at a parish to which he was assigned. Cardinal Bernard Law, who knew of John Geoghan’s past but approved the transfer, was urged then by many to resign. Only when the crisis worsened did Pope John Paul II accept Law’s resignation in Rome December 13.