The Religion Newswriters Association, which annually chooses and ranks the top religion stories of the year, this year picked Cardinal Bernard Law, who resigned recently as the embattled archbishop of Boston, as its top religion newsmaker for 2002.
Participants in the poll, primarily journalists who report on religion in the secular press, also listed the Catholic clergy sex-abuse scandal as the year's top story.
In other balloting, RNA gave its "Into the Darkness Award" to the American Catholic hierarchy for keeping sexual-abuse reports and settlements secret over the years.
Many of the other nine top stories chosen during electronic polling by 71 writers from Dec. 11 to 16 involved some aspect of the Catholic sex scandal. They are listed in order below, starting With the No. 2 story: The resignation of Cardinal Law following complaints about his handling of the sex-abuse scandal in the Boston Archdiocese. Controversy over criticism of Islam by evangelical leaders Franklin Graham and Jerry Vine of the Southern Baptist Convention. Catholic bishops meeting in Dallas to adopt a "one strike and you're out" policy that would permanently remove any priest who has abused a child from public ministry. Lay people seeking a greater voice in Catholic Church decision-making as a result of the sexual-abuse scandal. The U.S. Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of school vouchers for children in religious schools. An appellate court judge in San Francisco rules the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional. The possible U.S. invasion of Iraq is opposed by the National Council of Churches, United Church of Christ, and other religious groups. American Catholic bishops also raise concerns about the morality of a pre-emptive strike. The 39-day siege of Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity. A 2,000-year-old burial box with the words, "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus" is discovered and hailed by some as a major archaeological find. Others call the inscription a hoax.