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.
Six months ago Voice of the Faithful didn’t exist. Now it is one of the most turbo-charged Christian movements in the country. About 14,000 Catholics from 40 states and 21 countries have registered their support for this centrist, lay-led effort to democratize the Catholic Church.
The scandal of sexual abuse among priests and its institutional cover-up presents the Catholic Church with a staggering crisis. It is a crisis of leadership, of moral credibility, and of trust between parishioners, priests and bishops.