Subsequent investigations and allegations revealed a pattern of sexual abuse and cover-ups in a number of large dioceses across the United States. What had first appeared to be a few isolated cases of abuse became a nationwide scandal, then a global crisis, for the Roman Catholic Church.
Ultimately, it became clear that priests and lay members of religious orders in the Catholic Church had sexually abused minors on a scale such that the accusations reached into the thousands over several decades. Although the majority of cases were reported to have occurred in the United States, victims have come forward in other nations such as Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. A major aggravating factor was the actions of Catholic bishops to keep these crimes secret and to reassign the accused to other parishes in positions where they had continued unsupervised contact with youth, thus allowing the abusers to continue their crimes.
The investigation of the scandal by The Boston Globe was titled "Spotlight Investigation: Abuse in the Catholic Church". Its in-depth reporting was the central subject of Tom McCarthy's film Spotlight in 2015, which won two Academy Awards including Best Picture.
In 2002, criminal charges were brought against five Roman Catholic priests in the Boston, Massachusetts area (John Geoghan, John Hanlon, Paul Shanley, Robert V. Gale and Jesuit priest James Talbot) who were all convicted and sentenced to prison. The ongoing coverage of these cases by The Boston Globe thrust the issue of "sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests" into the national limelight.
In 2003, The Boston Globe received a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. The newspaper was honored, according to the Pulitzer website, "for its courageous, comprehensive coverage....an effort that pierced secrecy, stirred local, national and international reaction and produced changes in the Roman Catholic Church."