The AP designated coverage of the Roman Catholic Church and its handling of sexual misconduct as a major focus in 2019, exploring myriad facets of the church’s greatest credibility crisis since the Reformation. That focus carried through the past two weeks, with three strong stories delving into various aspects of the church’s transparency, accountability and treatment of those who make abuse accusations.

Underreport Ap 19358566573793 1024I

Former Catholic priest Richard J. Poster, shown in an undated photo, had multiple cases of sexual misconduct and in 2005 was placed on a sex offender registry. Yet Poster was only recently added to a list of clergy members credibly accused of child sexual abuse – after the AP asked why he was not included.

Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services via AP

First, reporter Claudia Lauer and data journalist Meghan Hoyer showed definitively that the church has failed to be fully forthcoming about the number of clergy members credibly accused of child sexual abuse. Their exclusive story revealed that more than 900 accused clergy members were missing from lists of priests issued by dioceses around the U.S., with more than a hundred of those having been charged with sexual crimes, including rape. On top of that, they found another nearly 400 priests and clergy members who were accused of abuse while serving in dioceses that have not yet released any names.

Investigative reporter Michael Rezendes broke the news about a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse by one of Mother Teresa's key confidants, telling the story of how a man who'd been the Jesuit priest's defender turned into his accuser. Rezendes and photographer Nam Huh spent two days interviewing Bobby Goldberg, the plaintiff in the case, who said he was abused more than 1,000 times in multiple states and countries.

Underreport Combo I

Richard King, 70, left, stands for a portrait at his ranch near Zortman, Mont., on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, Dec. 8, 2019. King was sexually abused on the Assiniboine reservation in Fort Belknap, Montana, where he grew up. He said taboos and shame kept him silent for decades. At right, Terrence Sample poses for a portrait in Baton Rouge, La., Dec. 12, 2019. Sample, 58, was a middle school student at St. Procopius Catholic school in Chicago when he was abused by a priest who also abused his five siblings. An AP investigation found that for survivors of color, the lack of concerted outreach on behalf of the church means less public exposure — and potentially, more opportunities for abuse to go on undetected.

AP Photos / Tommy Martino, left; Gerald Herbert, right

And global religion editor Gary Fields, photographer Maye-E Wong and reporter Juliet Linderman delved into how, almost without exception, the church does not track the number of minorities who have been victimized by predator priests, a determination reached by repeatedly contacting each of the 178 U.S. Roman Catholic dioceses. As the story noted, for survivors of color, who often face additional social and cultural barriers to coming forward on their own, the lack of concerted outreach on behalf of the church means less public exposure – and potentially, more opportunities for abuse to go on undetected.

For illuminating work that further deepens AP’s “Reckoning” reporting on the Catholic church, Lauer, Hoyer, Rezendes, Huh, Fields, Wong and Linderman share this week’s Best of the States award.