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 Latest coverage

April 7
Vt. church in record settlement

March 14
In Albany, bishop profile raised
Book Review: Guard of lies

February 28
Church hierarchy faulted
More than 80% of victims male

February 27
Diocese gives abuse data
Abuse peaked in '60s
2d man to aid Dupre case

February 26
Alleged victim to aid probe

February 24
Sniezyk clarifies his remarks

February 23
Prelate: Harm unrecognized

February 21
Springfield report questioned

February 20
Lawyer: Sermon riled accuser

February 17
4% of priests in US accused

February 12
Bishop resigns after claims

February 6
Arlington priest cited in suit

Earlier stories

Spotlight Report

Scandal and Coverup

     When the Rev. James Porter abuse cases became public in the early 1990s, and again in January 2002 when the Globe revealed the extent of Rev. John Geoghan's abusive behavior, Cardinal Bernard F. Law characterized these as isolated incidents. But as documents started flowing from the church in 2002 and more alleged victims came forward, it soon became clear that clergy abuse was, in fact, a systemic problem in the Boston Archdiocese, involving scores of priests and hundreds of victims across the metropolitan area.

     For decades church leaders kept horrific tales of abuse out of the public eye through an elaborate culture of secrecy, decepetion, and intimidation. Victims who came forward with abuse claims were ignored or paid off, while accused priests were quietly transferred from parish to parish or sent for brief periods of psychological counseling.

     Far from being unaware of abusive behavior, Cardinal Law and his deputies had detailed information on many of the archdiocese's most serious molesters. Yet it was not until decades of allegations had accumulated against them that many abusive clergymen were removed from parish ministry. Despite reports of child rape and other criminal behavior by clergymen, church leaders made no apparent effort to inform law enforcement authorities.

     The scandal began brewing in Boston, but it was not isolated here. As public furor grew, other dioceses began confronting abusive clergy in their ranks. By the end of 2002, some 1,200 priests had been accused of abuse nationwide, according to a study by The New York Times. Over the course of the year, five US prelates resigned in connection with sex scandals, including Boston's Cardinal Law -- joining four others who had resigned in previous years. The crisis was also felt worldwide, with accusations of abuse or the mishandling of scandals forcing the resignation of bishops in Argentina, Germany, Ireland, Poland, Wales, Scotland, Canada, Switzerland, and Austria.

See the story list to the left for the latest coverage of the widening scope of the abuse scandal.

Bishop John McCormack has been criticized for the way he handled abusive priests while he was a top official in the Boston Archdiocese. (Globe Staff Photo / Frank O'Brien)

Five US prelates resigned in connection with sexual scandals in 2002, including Bishop Anthony O'Connell, who stepped down as head of the Palm Beach, Fla., Diocese. (AP Photo)

Interactive map

Coverups in the church A history of secrecy, coverups in Boston Archdiocese
Church documents, official testimony, and victim interviews gathered over the past year paint an extraordinary picture of secrecy, deception, and delusion in the Boston Archdiocese.

Special reports
Christopher Schiavone Homosexuality and the church
The clergy abuse scandal has prompted frank discussion of homosexuality among priests and parishioners, a topic that has traditionally been taboo within the Catholic Church.

Illustration / Jon Krause Should celibacy be reconsidered?
In the wake of the clergy abuse scandal, some theologians have argued that the church's policy on celibacy fosters sexual dysfunction and abusive behavior among priests.

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