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Abuse of children and adolescents by Roman Catholic clergy is, sadly, turning out to be the religion story of the year. And in Boston, reports Scott M. Gibson, associate professor of preaching and ministry at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, some priests have stopped wearing their collars in public. "It's almost like wearing a turban," he says. " It's a symbol of suspicion."

Each day, newspapers are publishing dozens of articles reporting new accusations, dismissals, and other developments in the scandal. Los Angeles police are investigating between 6 and 12 priests accused of sexual abuse who were dismissed in late February and early March. New York's Cardinal Edward M. Egan is under fire after a report said he ignored abuse complaints while he was a bishop in Connecticut. More cases are underway in Florida, Maine, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and many other places around the country.

Some observers are saying the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S. has paid as much as $1 billion to sexual abuse victims in the last 18 years. Even where no new allegations are coming to light, clergy and laity alike are experiencing the pains of betrayal and inquisition.

But no diocese is more ensnared in the scandal than Boston's. The archdiocese may face $100 million in lawsuit settlements. The costliest so far is a $15 million to $30 million settlement with the victims of former priest John J. Geoghan, who is accused of molesting more than 130 people. The imbroglio continues: so far this year, at least 200 people have hired lawyers to file clergy sexual abuse claims.

Recent clergy abuse scandals in the U.S. aren't limited to Roman Catholics, nor even to Christian churches. Both Hare Krishnas and the Jehovah's Witnesses are also facing charges over ...

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March 2002

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