- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 19, 2002

The clergy sexual-abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church was voted the top religion story of 2002 by members of the Religion Newswriters Association.
Boston Cardinal Bernard Law, the archbishop of Boston, who was bedeviled all year over his handling of sex-abuse accusations against clergy under his supervision, was voted top religion newsmaker of 2002.
The electronic poll, which took place Dec. 11 through Monday, involved input from 71 journalists in the RNA, a nonprofit trade association of 243 members covering religion in the secular press.
RNA members then gave American Catholic hierarchy their Into the Darkness Award, a shameful honor that acknowledges individuals or organizations that attempt to hide information from the public and the media.
The top 10 RNA news stories of the year are:
1. The Catholic Church struggles to save its soul after revelations that bishops nationwide have moved priests accused of sexual abuse from parish to parish without notifying parishioners or authorities.
2. Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston resigns as archbishop after it is revealed that for years he has overlooked charges of sexual misconduct by priests. He is the highest-ranking church official to step down as a result of the Boston scandal.
3. Islam is criticized by some evangelicals, including the Rev. Franklin Graham, who labels Islam as "an evil and wicked" religion, and the Rev. Jerry Vines of the Southern Baptist Convention, who calls the Prophet Muhammad a "demon-possessed pedophile."
4. Catholic bishops meet in Dallas to hear the stories of abuse victims. Shortly afterward, they adopt a "one strike and you are out policy," which permanently removes any priest who has abused a child. The Vatican pressures Catholic bishops five months later to approve the creation of tribunals that would consider cases of priests who proclaim their innocence.
5. The clergy sexual-abuse scandal breeds new lay groups that seek a greater role in Catholic Church decision-making. Voice of the Faithful forms in early 2002 in response to the Boston scandals and draws in 25,000 Catholics. Cardinal Bernard Law refuses to lift a ban that prevents new chapters of the group from meeting on church property.
6. The U.S. Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of the use of school vouchers for children attending religious schools.
7. A Circuit Court of Appeals judge in San Francisco rules that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools is unconstitutional because of the words "under God" inserted by Congress in 1954.(Under a torrent of criticism, the court suspended the ruling, pending appeal.)
8. Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders, including those in the National Council of Churches and the United Church of Christ, show unprecedented unity with their opposition to a U.S. invasion of Iraq. America's Catholic bishops question whether a pre-emptive strike can be morally legitimate under the traditional just-war theory.
9. Two hundred Palestinian gunmen hold nearly 100 priests and Palestinian civilians as hostages in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity. As a result, the Israeli military embarks on a 39-day siege.
10. Researchers discover a 2,000 year-old ossuary a trapezoid-shaped burial box that bears the inscription "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus."


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