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Boston Globe Revels in Pulitzer Victory

JUSTIN POPE - Associated Press
April 7, 2003

BOSTON - It was a story that consumed the national media for much of the past year: Priests nationwide accused of sexually abusing their parishioners, allegations covered up or ignored by their superiors.

On Monday, The Boston Globe won the Pulitzer Prize for public service for its groundbreaking coverage of the scandal that has helped prompt unprecedented change in the U.S. Roman Catholic Church.

"You made history this past year. And you made the world a better and safer, and more humane place," Globe Editor Martin Baron told a packed newsroom.

Coverage of the scandal was rooted in the case of John Geoghan, a defrocked priest who has since been convicted of sexual assault.

Details of what the church knew about the case remained secret at the insistence of church lawyers.

But in November 2001, Globe attorneys won a court order that opened a flood of church records. Within weeks, the Globe was reporting on the contents of those documents, showing how top church officials shuttled Geoghan from parish to parish despite warnings about his behavior.

The work broke the scandal wide open. Thousands of pages of church files have been released detailing accusations against dozens of priests by hundreds of alleged victims.

By the end of last year, the Boston Archdiocese had overhauled its sexual-abuse policies and Cardinal Bernard Law had resigned. And after an extraordinary summit of U.S. bishops, the Vatican approved a revised sex abuse policy that requires every U.S. diocese to bar priests who molest children from working in the church.

The Pulitzer was the Globe's 17th and its third for public service.

In awarding the prize, the Pulitzer board cited the paper's "courageous, comprehensive coverage of sexual abuse by priests, an effort that pierced secrecy, stirred local national and international reaction and produced changes in the Roman Catholic Church."

The coverage also brought accolades from victim advocacy groups.

"The Globe deserves more than recognition from its journalistic peers. It deserves the gratitude of Catholics everywhere," said Barbara Blaine, president of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "The Globe's coverage has prompted hundreds of media outlets to begin delving into other religious institutions. The result is that children will ultimately be much safer."

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests