THE PROBLEM OF SEXUAL MOLESTATION
ROMAN CATHOLIC CLERGY :
MEETING THE PROBLEM IN A COMPREHENSIVE
AND RESPONSIBLE MANNER
This confidential document had its remote beginnings in January of 1985
as a result of the consequences of the unfortunate incidents in Louisiana.
The three major parts of the final draft were prepared in May of 1985
and this final draft was compiled on June 8-9, 1985 by Mr. F. Ray Mouton,
J.D. and Rev. Thomas P. Doyle, O.P. J.C.D
[See an explanation of this document
and its history. This web version was created from a
PDF of the original on the National Catholic Reporter's website. We
have not corrected the typos in the original typescript. The table of
contents has been linked to the heads that it lists, and an anchor has
been placed at the beginning of each page, so if you wish to link directly
to page 63, you would use the URL http://www.bishop-accountability.org/reports/1985_06_09_Doyle_Manual/#p63.]
TABLE OF CONTENTS
of Proposal 2
of This Document 3
of One Case 5
DESCRIPTIONS OF POSSIBLE CASE SCENARIOS
Law Questions 16
Law Questions 18
Law Questions 22
SUMMARY OF CONSIDERATION 32
Law Considerations 34
Law Considerations 42
Spiritual Concerns 74
Relations Concerns 77
PROJECT PROPOSAL 80
Group of Four Bishops 80
Control Team 81
Policy and Planning Group 82
SCOPE OF SERVICES 84
Control Team 84
and Planning Group 87
[page 1 begins]
This document contains a discussion of an extremely serious situation
and a proposal to establish and fund a Special Project to be comprised
of a Crisis Control Team and a Policy and Planning Group.
Both the Team and the Group would work under the direct control and supervision
of an ad hoc Committee of four Bishops, all of whom have civil law degrees.
This Committee of four shall control every aspect of the Special Project,
subject to the supervision of a Committee formed out of the National Conference
of Catholic Bishops, under whose auspices they shall be appointed, receive
authority, and serve.
The Project itself, both the Team and the Group, shall be comprised of
professionals and consultants who possess a significant degree of experience
and expertise in their given fields. Some of this group of experts from
different disciplines shall devote the entirety of their professional
endeavor to the Project during its existence. Other experts shall be retained
as required. However, a group of professionals shall be working full time
on the Project.
It is contemplated that the minimum life of the Special Project shall
be five years. It is believed that following the completion of that term,
it would be beneficial to retain some of the elements of the Project in
place as opposed to dismantling the entire structure. [page
The cost of the Project is dependent upon the caliber of consultants
retained, their degree of expertise and experience, and the portion of
their professional life to be devoted to the Project. The cost shall be
HISTORY OF PROPOSAL:
Some extremely serious issues have
arisen which issues presently place the Church in the posture of facing
extremely serious financial consequences as well as significant injury
to its image. As a result of sexual molestation of children by Clerics
(Priests, Permanent Deacons, Transient Deacons), non-ordained Religious,
lay employees and seminarians, for many months there has been continuous
confidential communication amongst some expert consultants and Clergy,
all of whom possess hands on experience with the more serious cases of
sexual molestation. Through those discussions, the idea of this Project
was born. The scope of the Project has been defined and re-defined until
it reached the final form presented herein. It is contemplated that the
very nature of the Project shall cause further re-definition during its
The Criminal Considerations, Civil Considerations, Canonical Considerations,
and Clinical Considerations are of such magnitude, not to mention the
other substantial considerations such as Insurance and Public Relations,
that it was decided that the [page
3 begins here] presentation of these extraordinary issues necessitated
an extraordinary response, a response which would affirmatively and aggressively
attack the problems. This is a very new and narrow area of legal jurisprudence
which is developing with a very adverse effect upon the Church's interests.
In addition to the legal issues, there are unique Canonical Considerations
and extremely complex Clinical Considerations which cannot or should not
be addressed in a piecemeal manner.
It is submitted that time is of the essence. At the moment this is being
read, problems with which the Project will deal are continuously arising.
Many of these problems appear to be old problems, and indeed some are.
However, all now carry consequences never before experienced.
CONFIDENTIALITY OF THIS DOCUMENT:
The necessity for protecting the confidentiality of this document cannot
The document was drafted by retained counsel hired for the specific purpose
of communicating to the reader, however, though much of the language is
that of counsel, the document is reflective of the thoughts of Clergy
and other professionals in different disciplines, professionals who have
worked closely with counsel throughout the development of these ideas.
[page 4 begins]
An effort has been made to have this document afforded the protection
and privilege provided under our law for confidential communications.
That privilege shall not apply should the reader discuss same with anyone
other than a recipient of this document.
In an abundance of caution and in consideration of the reader, great
care has been given to protect the anonymity of any case mentioned or
alluded to, and further there is no specific reference herinbelow nor
is there any allusion to any fact in litigation which has not been publicly
reported in the press. This has been done to protect the reader so that
the reader may not be placed in a position of having received any specific
knowledge not generally known to the public and thereby become the target
of a subpoena or other discovery device.
The national press has an active interest in items discussed herein,
and therefore, an abundance of caution is required. It is requested that
each reader return the document to the person from whom they received
same, without copying. It is requested that no copy be retained by the
reader. The rationale for this request is the great interest of the press.
Over the last two weeks there has been national press coverage of the
problem and that coverage is increasing. Security for the entire Project
is extremely important. [page 5
AN ILLUSTRATION OF ONE CASE:
Over ONE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS ($100,000,000.00) in
claims have been made against one Diocese as a result of sexual contact
between one Priest and a number of minor children. To date the cost of
this catastrophe exceeds FIVE MILLION DOLLARS ($5,000,000.00) and the
projected cost of concluding the civil cases in that Diocese alone is
in excess of TEN MILLION DOLLARS ($10,000,000.00).1
[Note] 1. Settlements for seven cases and fees and expenses exceeded
$5,000,000.00. The average settlement for each case was nearly $500,000.00.
Ten cases remain to be settled.
It is not hyperbolic to state that the dramatic description of the actual
case contained hereinabove is indicative that a real, present danger exists.
That other cases exist and are arising with increased frequency is evidenced
by reports of same. If one could accurately predict, with actuarial soundness,
that our exposure to similar claims (i.e. one offender and fifteen or
so claimants) over the next ten years could be restricted and limited
to the occurence of one hundred such cases against the Church, [page
6 begins] then an estimate of the total projected losses for the
decade could be established with a limit of ONE BILLIION DOLLARS
[Note] 2. Approximately thirty cases have been reported in the press
involving approximately one hundred children. At the rate the cases
were settled in the first paragraph, over $400,000,000.00 will be needed
just for these cases. As this was being typed on June 8, 1985, the Associated
Press reported the arrest of a priest in Florida. At the rate cases
are developing, $1,000,000,000.00 over ten years is a conservative cost
A TEN BILLION DOLLAR ($10,000,000,000.00) class action
lawsuit has been threatened, which threat is documented, and others who
have not threatened same in writing, including Melvin Belli of San Francisco,
are contemplating same. The suit would be brought on behalf of a number
of children who are alleged victims of sexual abuse by priests and would
be filed against the entirety of the Church. The effort would be to embroil
the whole structure in the controversy and conduct discovery in each and
every Diocese in this country in an effort to discover all damaging information.
The financial factors mentioned in the preceeding paragraphs are actual
and illustrative of what is now occurring in sexual molestation cases
across the country.
In the case cited above, the priest has been charged in a thirty-four
count criminal indictment by a Grand Jury and the crimes with which he
is charged carry a sentence upon conviction of life imprisonment without
benefit of pardon or parole. The estimated cost of criminal defense is
one-half million dollars and with the prospect of a lengthy trial. [page
The Priest is presently housed at a private mental institution approved
by the Court where he shall remain pending trial at a cost of ten thousand
There are a number of civil trials from that case which have been set
to commence beginning September 10, 1985.
Each development of that case has carried with it attendant adverse publicity.
That publicity was local in nature originally but has now become national.
There are presently a significant number of other sexual molestation
cases involving Priests which exist in other jurisdictions. This document
shall not allude to those out of deference to the reader as many aspects
of same have not been widely reported.
Presently all three major networks (ABC, NBC, CBS) and subdivisions of
same (20/20, 60 Minutes), as well as CNN NEWS have reporters assigned
to developing stories. Some have had crews on location shooting second
unit (background) footage for inclusion in segments to be shown later.
All national radio networks, as well as CBS Evening News and NBC Evening
News have shot filmed reports.
A minimum of six national print publications (NEW YORK TIMES, THE WASHINGTON
POST, NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER, VANITY FAIR, MOTHER JONES and ROLLING
STONE) have reporters in place trying to tie the isolated, regional episodes
into a national story, presumably one of scandalous proportions. Several
of these publications have already published lengthy articles (See NCR
7 June 1985). [page 8 begins]
Two previously published authors, Mr. Jason Berry (author of Amazing
Grace and regular contributor to many magazines of national import)
and Mr. Chris Segura (author of Marshland Brace, which was nominated
for the Pulitzer and a former wire reporter covering European Affairs),
are attempting to place book proposals with publishers on this topic.
At least one writer has applied to the Fund for Investigative Journalism
for a grant to do a full length work on Pedophilia, Priests and the Catholic
Church. All major wire services are now distributing articles and national
commentators such as Paul Harvey have done pieces.
The American Bar Association and other groups comprised primarily of
plaintiff lawyers are conducting studies, scheduling panel conferences,
and devising other methods of disseminating information about this newly
developing area of law. Thus far three plaintiff lawyers representing
children who have sued the Church have agreed to make a presentation at
two national meetings of the Bar to educate other lawyers on methods of
successfully suing the Church.
Our Diocesan lawyers have themsleves addressed this situation and some
of its ramifications as recently as their April meeting in Chicago and
there presently exists an ongoing effort by some to study the problems.
Though these efforts may produce significant studies, it is believed that
the retention of full time professionals and expert consultants is preferable
to relying upon those whose responsibilities are already full time to
take [page 9 begins]
this task and exert the requisite effort. It is contemplated that the
Project, where feasible, shall avail itself of already existing resources
and in some instances a coalition between those within the official structure
of the Church and outside consultants on the Project shall be formed,
i.e. where competent professionals exist within the USCC and other organizations
and have work loads requiring less than their full attention, then, in
those situations it is possible the Project personnel may reach to those
resources for assistance.
A GENERAL DISCUSSION:
There are many newly developing areas of jurisprudence which deserve
our attention. An example is the newly developing area of Clergy malpractice.
Suits are being filed against Protestant Ministers and Catholic Clergy.
These malpractice cases involve situations where clerics give advice which
is considered by the civil courts to be beyond their sphere of expertise
or competence. This advice allegedly causes catastrophic consequences
(divorce, suicide) resulting in civil suits. This document recognizes
that a vast number of such issues exist separate and apart from sexual
molestation, have been discussed in the confidential consultations and
meetings referred to above. It is contemplated that the Project [page
10 begins] will deal with those issues as well as all other issues
referred to it. However, this document has largely been restricted to
a discussion of what has been perceived as the pressing problem, the possible
cost to the Catholic Church of many millions of dollars and the potential
devastating injury to its image as a result of inappropriate or felonious
sexual activity between Priests and parishioners, lay employees of Religious
Institutions and third parties, and related areas involving consequential
civil responsibility and criminal sanctions . . . which situations give
rise to Canonical and Clinical Considerations equal in import to the civil/criminal
This is the "age of litigation." The potential exposure to
the Catholic Church for the continuation of claimants coming forward in
legal jurisdictions across the country is very great. Already, a large
number of damage claims have been made and more are certain. It might
have been unthinkable a few years ago for a Catholic parent to sue the
Church. Similarly, there was a time when it was unthinkable for a patient
to sue a physician. The analogy with medical malpractice is well taken.
This area of jurisprudence, i.e. the Church's financial responsibility
for damages caused by the sexual conduct of a Priest, is presently situated
where medical malpractice litigation was a quarter century ago. There
are absolutely no definitive appellate court decisions which exist at
present on the substantive questions. The law is waiting to be made! And
it will be made, with or without the Church's involvement [page
11 begins] in the process. Presently the Church is prepared to
participate in the process through the non-uniform, random actions of
individuals (local Diocesan lawyers and others) with the result being
a divergent application of the Canonical, Clinical, Civil and Criminal
Considerations. This Special Project seeks to rectify that immediately
by making uniform assistance available to those Bishops and local lawyers
who wish to avail themselves of this offered assistance.
In this age of litigation, plantiff lawyers are constantly breaking barriers
down, finding new causes of action, and searching for deep pockets, defendants
to sue who possess great financial wealth. The Catholic Church is undoubtedly
perceived by plaintiff lawyers to have very deep pockets, to have a very
serious interest in its image, and therefore should become the biggest
target in this newly developing field of jurisprudence, i.e. seeking compensation
for an allegedly abused child from the employer or parent organization
of the wrongdoer.
"Pedophilia" and related deviant disorders is an area which
has been closeted in Western Civilization for centuries. Most individuals
and organizations, including the Church and Bishops, who were ever confronted
with the issue of illicit sexual relationships between adults and children
responded in a manner they thought to be responsible in an effort to protect
the injured child and aid the offending Priest. It is now known because
of strides in the Clinical field, that perhaps those actions insofar as
they aided, comforted or enabled the sex offender to continue his secret
[page 12 begins]
life were irresponsible and injurious to the sex offender. Though psychological
study is still in its infancy in some respects, much more is known about
the long and short term traumatic injury inflicted on the victim.
In any event, the entire issue of "Child Sexual Abuse," whether
same be categorized as pedophiliac, homosexual or heterosexual, is displayed
prominently across the front pages of newsparers where it shall remain
for at least the balance of the decade (having replaced the sexual issue
of the seventies, homosexuality).
The general awareness and consciousness of the public in regard to sexual
abuse of children has reached a previously unattained level and shall
continue to escalate with each new revelation of discovered cases of sexual
molestation. This increased awareness, widespread publicity, and the excellent
educational programs available to children, which we all support, shall
increase the reporting of such incidents and increase the likelihood that
both civil and criminal actions shall be instituted against the offender
and those sought to be held legally responsible with the wrongdoer.
For well over a decade the news media of this country has exhibited a
tendency to attack institutions presently or previously held in high esteem
by the public, including the Presidency. The tendency is ever escalating,
particularly in instances where the press can characterize a situation
Cases of this nature have all of the necessary elements for press reporters
and plaintiff lawyers; there is a significant [page
13 begins] injury, psychological in nature, to a sympathetic victim
of a tender age, an odious and heinous circumstance surrounding the infliction
of injury which engenders prejudice and punitive awards from juries against
the defendant Church, an organization perceived by many to be possessed
of great wealth.
Also, the secular press attempts to portray the Church as hypocritical,
as an organization preaching morality and providing sanctuary to perverts
. . . the attempts are in evidence today and shall escalate. [page
OF POSSIBLE CASE SCENARIOS
Experience has shown that sexual misconduct by the clergy takes a variety
of forms. While the cases have common threads running through them, there
are many dimensions and tangential aspects that could occur. All of the
elements of each case must be given careful study.
Though many hypothetical cases could be considered, the following are
brief descriptions of five realistic yet hypothetical occurances. The
listing is illustrative only, and intended to provide a basis for the
pertinent questions which follow.
HYPOTHETICAL CASE NO. 1:
As Bishop, it comes to your attention, as a result of a visit from a
parishioner, that an associate Pastor is suspected of having had sexual
relations with one or more children not related to complaintant.
HYPOTHETICAL CASE NO. 2:
As a Bishop, you have confirmed a suspicion that a parish priest has,
over a long period of time, been involved sexually with juveniles. [page
HYPOTHETICAL CASE NO. 3:
As a Bishop, you have confirmed a suspicion that a parish priest has,
over a long period of time, been involved sexually with juveniles and
further that some of the parents have retained lawyers, some have gone
to the criminal prosecutor and others have contacted various media representatives.
HYPOTHETICAL CASE NO. 4:
A case involving a pedophile priest arises in a jurisdiction where the
criminal Prosecutor has great animosity against the Church. This Prosecutor
has the most devastating of legal weapons in his arsenal, the Grand Jury
Subpoena, which allows him to bring all of the Diocesan records and personnel
he desires into a closed room, subject to cross examination, without counsel
to advise them. It is the setting for a witchhunt that the vindictive
plaintiff lawyer referred to above tried to institute in a civil case,
i.e. it was his announced intention to prove a pervasive pattern of widespread
sexual dysfunction and by implication argue same has been condoned by
the Clergy. A case is now developing where these explosive elements are
present. [page 16 begins]
HYPOTHETICAL CASE NO. 5:
A case involving a homosexual priest who has been suspended by a Bishop
following the discovery of his sexual activity with a juvenile or adolescent.
In this hypothet, the priest is a Gay Liberationist and as such retains
the services of a Gay lawyer, the support of Gay organizations . . . and
strikes back at us, suing to show, among other things, all sexual skeletons
in our closet across the country. There is a strong Gay ministry movement
as evidenced by the literature and this hypothetical confrontation can
The following are select questions which should
be considered in dealing with these kinds of cases. They are divided into
the following categories: criminal law questions; civil law questions;
canon law questions; clinical or medical questions.
CRIMINAL LAW QUESTIONS
1. Does sexual contact with minor children constitute a criminal offense?
Which types of sexual contact are considered felonious (involving maximum
imprisonment at hard labor) and which are classified as misdemeanors (involving
fines and minimum incarceration)? [page
2. At what age is a child considered to be an adult? At what young age
is a child considered to be so tender as to cause a sexual crime to be
considered by criminal law to be an aggravated crime, one which carries
the most serious sentences such as life imprisonment?
3. What is the requirement in criminal law for one who has knowledge
that a sexual crime has been committed to report that knowledge to the
authorities? To which authorities (District Attorney, State Child Welfare
Agency) must the report be made? What criminal law penalty, fine or jail
term, would be given to a Bishop who failed to comply with the reporting
4. Is there any privilege which attaches to the communication between
the Bishop and the Priest under criminal law? Can the Bishop be made to
testify before a Grand Jury, give statements to police detectives or give
evidence in a criminal trial against the priest?
5. Does the criminal law provide that the Bishop's files or other diocesan
records can be subpoened and utilized in a police investigation, Grand
Jury hearing, or a criminal trial? [page
6. Is there an obligation to provide constitutional due process to the
Priest accused of sexual crimes, and furnish an attorney for the Priest
prior to eliciting any incriminatory information? Must the Priest be provided
this protection and can the priest reasonably refuse to answer questions
posed by his Ordinary?
7. Should a criminal lawyer be retained for the Priest or by the Priest?
A lawyer separate from Diocesan Counsel? At what stage should this be
done? What financial obligations exist for payment of legal fees, expenses,
bonding costs, etc?
CIVIL LAW QUESTIONS
1. What specific provisions for insurance coverage exist in regard to
the civil law consequences of the sexual conduct between the Priest and
2. What contractual obligation, if any, exists in regard to notification
of insurer? At what point should the insurance companies be told of the
3. What rights, if any, does the Bishop have in relationship to the civil
law defense of the Diocese? Can the Bishop either [page
19 begins] select or reject the particular attorneys to be utilized?
Can the Bishop dictate any aspect of the handling of the case to ensure
that the image of the Church is protected from injury?
4. If the Bishop is aware of sexual misconduct, or a propensity for sexual
misconduct, that took place at an earlier date, does this fact become
a critical question in subsequent litigation involving child molestation?
In other words, if the Bishop has knowledge that a Priest sexually abused
a child in 1970, does this knowledge affect his liability in the event
of a similar incident in 1980? Does this prior knowledge by the Bishop
constitute negligence on his part independent of Diocesan negligence?
Can the Bishop be financially liable to the suing parties, independent
of, or in addition to, liability of the Diocese?
5. What civil law obligations exist toward the child-victim and the family
of the child?
6. Can suits be brought against only the Corporate Entity, i.e. the Diocese,
or can the superiors, including the hierarchical superiors (Pastor, Vicar
General, Bishop, Metropolitan Archbishop, Papal Representative, Holy Father,
Holy See) be named in the suits as well with some possibility of success?
[page 20 begins]
7. Can the civil law suit be restricted to the one Priest and his actions,
or will the suing parties be able to expose all other sexual misconduct
of every other priest in the Diocese? Can the civil law courts cause the
Bishop to give information regarding all aberrant sexual practices of
Priests in the Diocese? Can all this information be subpoened, and will
the Diocese be forced by civil law to provide the information?
8. Which parties can bring a civil law suit? Will the child be the only
person entitled under civil law to a recovery of money? Can the parents
sue and recover money?
9. What are the factors in civil law which determine what damages were
incurred by the parties and what sums they shall receive?
10. Is there any provision in civil law for restricting the access of
the press to the civil proceedings? Will all of the civil law proceedings
11. Which Canonical and Clinical procedures instituted at this juncture
shall be later viewed favorably by the civil law courts and which shall
be viewed unfavorably and why? [page
12. Which initially instituted measures will later be deemed prudent
and reasonable by the civil law courts and which will be classified as
imprudent and negligent?
13. In which civil law cases should the Diocese attempt to force its
insurance companies to either settle cases quietly without public disclosure
or, in the alternative, admit liability to prevent public disclosure or
damaging information? What are the civil law effects of such settlements
or admissions? What are the key factors which cause a Bishop to consider
these alternatives? What effect will settlements and admissions have on
future insurance premiums?
14. Which civil law cases should be defended through trial and appeal
courts? What factors are to be considered in determining whether a case
should settle or be tried? Most importantly, at what stage should the
decision be made?
15. Does the Diocesan attorney have expertise and experience in trial
law generally, and specifically does the Diocesan attorney have civil
law and criminal law experience in the area of these sexual conduct cases?
Should additional lawyers be hired? Should counsel be sought from lawyers
with expertise and hands on experience in this field? [page
16. What civil law precedents, if any, exist? What was the experience
of prior cases and trial court decisions? What data bank, if any, exists
which might contain accurate information from prior cases and circumstances
in Dioceses across the country? Which individuals (lawyers, psychiatrists,
canon lawyers, etc.) have expertise, experience, and information on the
civil law cases and how does the Bishop contact the people and gain access
to the information?
CANON LAW QUESTIONS
1. Should the bishop investigate the incident?
2. Does he have an obligation to conduct an investigation?
3. Does Canon Law provide a format for any type of investigation?
4. Is it necessary that an investigation preceed the Bishop's confrontation
of the cleric?
5. If there is a confrontation, are there any canonical procedures that
should or must be followed?
6. If the Priest admits the allegations, and he is the only priest in
the parish, how should the Bishop proceed? [page
7. Is the Bishop limited in any way, because of confidentiality, in his
ability or freedom to consult with others concerning the alleged incidents?
8. In studying the source of the allegations, or suspicions, is there
a preferable method for assuring credibility/reliability of the source?
9. May/should the Bishop delegate the power to investigate to a Vicar
or some other person?
10. Should a record be kept of the allegation and investigation?
11. Where should such a record be kept?
12. How secure is such a record from civil authorities?
13. Should the Bishop confront the Priest? Alone or in the presence of
14. If the Priest admits the incidents, what action should the bishop
take: transfer, removal, suspension?
15. Can the Priest be suspended? Without a process? What are his rights
to recourse? [page 24
16. Is the Bishop canonically responsible for the Priest's support while
he is suspended? If he is living in another diocese? If he is laicized?
17. Is such a priest suspected of any canonical delicts and liable to
18. Does the Bishop have any canonical/moral/pastoral obligations toward
the victims and their families?
19. Should the Bishop inform the Metropolitan and/or the Apostolic pro-Nuncio?
20. Does the canon law clearly define the Bishop's relationship to his
Priests and Deacons (permanent and transient)?
21. What will the civil law perceive this relationship to be, based on
ecclesiastical documentation available to the courts?
22. Should an expert in canon law be retained to assist in the case,
possibly by helping prepare witnesses or appearing as an expert witness
23. Where can such a canonical expert be found? Should he be affiliated
with the NCCB, Nunciature, Holy See, etc.?
[page 25 begins]
24. Does the law provide for any general method of vigilance over the
activities of Priests and other church employees?
25. Does the law provide for any method of investigation and consequent
action in cases of complaints of misconduct?
26. Is there a canonical entity known as the Roman Catholic Church in
the United States?
27. If a class action were so filed, would the National Bishops' Conference
qualify as the canonical entity?
28. What is the canonical relationship of each Diocese and its Bishop
to other ecclesiastical entities such as the Metropolitan See and Archbishop;
the National Conference of Catholic Bishops; the United States Catholic
Conference; the Apostolic Nunciature and the Pro-Nuncio; the Holy See
and the Holy Father?
29. What is the canonical authority of the NCCB over individual Bishops
and their dioceses?
30. Is there any protection for diocesan files, secret archives and tribunal
records? [page 26 begins]
1. Are psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers equally qualified,
both professionally and legally, to examine Clerics who have a suspected
problem of sexual molestation of children?
2. If you ask a social worker, psychologist, or psychiatrist to examine
and evaluate your Cleric, is he obliged under your state law to report
this to the District Attorney or the Child Abuse Agency?
3. What is the difference between pedophilia, homosexuality and the sexual
abuse of adolescent males or females?
4. Does the age of the offending Priest (older or younger) create a significant
difference in his diagnosis and treatment?
5. Are there mitigating psychiatric disorders of which it would be important
to be aware before proceeding with a decision on a treatment facility
or a treatment program?
6. If there is a problem of alcohol or drug abuse complicating the problem
of sexual abuse of children or adolescents, would any alcohol treatment
center be capable of treating both the alcohol or drug abuse and the sexual
abuse issues? [page 27
7. Are the treatment centers presently used for Catholic Clergy and Religious,
i.e. the Houses of Affirmation, Guest House, St. Luke Institute, the institutions
of the Servants of the Paraclete and Southdown (near Toronto) equally
qualified to treat both the alcohol/drug abuse and dependence as well
as cases of sexual abuse of children or adolescents? Do they all have
follow-up programs for two or more years that would monitor the Cleric's
activity and report to the Ordinary?
8. If the case involves a repeat offender and prior psychiatric or psychological
intervention has been useless, what drug therapy would be considered in
the treatment of the sex offender, whether or not alcohol or other mitigating
psychiatric disorders were present?
9. What constitutes sexual abuse? Does touching the buttocks of a fully
clothed nine year old child constitute sexual abuse either in the law
or from a psychiatrist's viewpoint? Does touching the covered genitalia
of a fully clothed youngster constitute sexual abuse? Does masturbation
of the child by the Priest or of the Priest by the child constitute sexual
10. Does the age of the child at the time of the abuse and the extent
of the abuse have any effect on long term function or dysfunction of this
child with adults? [page
11. At what age would an abused child be expected to fully comprehend
and be cognizant of the long term effects of prolonged and severe sexual
abuse by a lay-person or by a Cleric?
12. If the juvenile were a sixteen year old boy, would this imply that
the abuse would have a lesser impact in the adult life of this victim?
13. If the teenager appeared to initiate the sexual contact and seemed
to continue to enjoy it over a period of time, would this change the offense
in the eyes of the law or in the eyes of a psychiatrist?
14. If the sexual contact is mainly with juvenile boys or adolescent
boys, does this imply that the boys are more likely to be homosexually
oriented in their future adult life as compared to abuse of pre-pubertal
15. Clinically, in cases involving Cleric-sexual offenders, is there
a difference if the offender regularly abused children as opposed to adolescents?
Is there a difference if the victims are pre-pubertal girls as opposed
to adolescent girls?
16. Would there be more likelihood that the adolescent boy or girl would
"not tell the truth" as compared to a pre-pubertal child? [page
17. If there is a "mitigating" psychiatric disorder or psychological
disorder, would it make any difference in where you would send this priest
18. Of the facilities listed in number 7 above, which offers a complete
neurological and neuropsychological as well as complete physical and medical
evaluations as well as psychological testing? Would the facility and the
variety of evaluations be important in determining the presence of mitigating
medical or psychiatric disorders?
19. What kind of pre-intervention strategy should the Ordinary consider?
20. How soon should a complete evaluation be done?
21. Should the alleged Priest-offender see anyone else before the evaluation?
22. What are the causes of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy?
23. What should an Ordinary look for and expect in an adequate evaluation
of a cleric?
24. How can an Ordinary know which treatment center is best for the needs
of the alleged offender? [page
25. Can a Priest/cleric ever return and function in the Diocese?
26. What should the Ordinary do with regard to the families of the victims?
[page 31 begins]
CRIMINAL AND CIVIL LAW CONSIDERATIONS
The following criminal and civil law considerations follow upon the pertinent
question in the same area, posed elsewhere. These are not to be construed
as answers to these questions. Rather, they expand upon the questions
and suggest the importance in dealing effectively with the various aspects
of these two dimensions of this problem. [page
SUMMARY OF CONSIDERATIONS
1. Loss of Liability Insurance Coverage to Each and Every Diocese.
It is highly probable that specific, exclusionary language shall begin
to appear following a few years experience in all Diocesan liability policies
which shall exclude coverage to the Diocese, the Bishop, Vicars, Clergy
and other personnel for "coverage of claims arising as a result of
sexual contact between a Priest and parishioner, an employee and any member
of the public . . ."
Such an exclusion was adopted as an insurance industry standard on January
1, 1985 for the psychiatric and psychological profession. Coverage for
those professions and the entities, partnerships, corporations, and associations
which employ them is no longer available for "claims arising as a
result of sexual contact between patient and therapist or other employee."
The exclusion was a reaction to payment of large claims by insurance
companies over several years and an inability [page
33 begins] actuarily to predict the risk that a physician might
have sexual contact with a patient.
The estimated cost of the loss of coverage correlates to the remarks
contained in the introduction. The cost could be hundreds of millions.
This threatens the very economic viability of the Church's mission in
2. Interim Increased Cost of Liability Insurance Coverage.
Following the experience by insurance companies of a number of claims
resulting in large monetary court awards or cash settlements involving
insurance funds and prior to the cancellation of coverage referred to
above, a significantly higher acturial value would be assigned to the
risk, resulting in a significantly increased premium cost.
One Diocese which experienced insurance losses as a result of a Priest
sexually molesting children has been notified that the insurance premium
shall increase more than 25 percent.
According to Time Magazine (June 3, 1985) a day care center
which suffered a child molestation experience was [page
34 begins] forced to pay a liability premium which increased nearly
750 percent, from $600 dollars per year to $8,000 dollars per year.
This individual increase to each Diocese, weighted in aggregate will
cost many millions.
l. Liability of Bishops.
Some debate exists in the civil law's understanding of the relationship
between a Bishop and his Priests and major religious superiors and their
The extent of responsibility a Bishop or religious superior has in regard
to tortious or felonious conduct of his Priests/subjects has not been
defined in the original sense by the higher courts of the civil law system,
and thus, the exceptions to such original definition do not exist. There
are absolutely no reported civil court decisions on the issues. This body
of law is just beginning to develop with the filing of these cases. [page
The Bishop's responsibility beyond incardinated Priests, for the actions
of non-incardinated Priests assigned for study, special work, visiting
(or having been suspended by another) as well as a Bishop's responsibility
for one whom he has suspended who is residing elsewhere, including a treatment
center without appropriate supervision . . . the questions await definition.
2. Impact of Code of Canon Law on Civil Courts.
The Canon Law shall play an important part of the Civil damage cases.
The interpretation of Canon Law by plaintiff lawyers in litigation has
already been experienced. No court has yet made rulings in this regard.
It is well founded in civil cases that operation manuals, policy and
procedure memoranda, and other documents generated as guidelines by the
civil defendant may be utilized in evidence.
That the Code of Canon Law actually has the effect of Law over our personnel
shall make it more relevant than some civil document which constitutes
no more than a guideline. [page
The impact may be negative or positive depending on the preparation of
the civil lawyer and the participation of a canon lawyer in cases where
the issue presents itself.
3. Liability of Larger Ecclesiastical Entities
Presently there are efforts to sue, successfully, not only a diocese but
also a bishop, diocesan vicars, the metopolitan archdiocese, the Holy
See's representative in the United States and the Holy rather himself.
These cases are being partially settled by the insurance companies without
first attempting to settle the question for the civil jurisdiction in
The trend to expand the circle of responsibility beyond the diocese of
the priests in question but to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops,
the Apostolic Pro-Nuncio and the Holy Father himself shall continue.
In great measure the courts shall look to both the civil law and the
canon law to comprehend the relationship of these other ecclesiastical
entities with the diocese in question, the bishop and the priest-offender
It is highly probable, nearly certain, that each and every Ordinary in
the United States shall be made a party - defendant in a federal class
action suit, the threat of which has been documented in correspondence
to the General [page
37 begins] counsel's office of the USCC-NCCB. In a class action
every Ordinary in the country would have to testify about every instance
of aberrrant sexual conduct in their diocese, produce all records relating
to aberrant sexual practices, and defend their actions or inaction in
The Papal representative in the United States, the Holy Father, and the
NCCB will be the primary target of lawsuits seeking to establish their
direct responsibility for the grave injury suffered by the child-victims.
In these efforts plaintiff lawyers will utilize, possibly to their advantage,
the structures set forth in the Code of Canon Law describing the inter-relationship
and inter-dependence of these various ecclesiastical entities. The project
proposed herein shall address these extremely serious issues and attempt
to provide acceptable solutions.
4. Responsibility for Seminarians
The responsibility for seminarians is two-edged in that there is a responsibility
on the part of the Ordinary for things done by the seminarian and things
done to the seminarian.
Depending on the geographic location of the seminary as well as the canonical
and corporate structure, more than [page
38 begins] one bishop may be involved in answering the questions
of responsibility. It is also possible that the wider ecclesiastical entities
may be involved if the seminary has some direct connections to the Holy
See (i.e., a Pontifical seminary, inter-diocesan seminary etc.)
5. Responsibility of Bishops for Visiting Clergy
A bishop may extend hospitality to a priest who is not incardinated to
his diocese and allow said priest to live and work as a priest in his
own diocese. If the priest has a history of problems involving sexual
misconduct and the bishop is aware of this and allows the priest to live
and work in his diocese anyway, there are serious questions regarding
his responsibility to act in the event of a subsequent incident.
A legal agreement between the host bishop and the priest's own Ordinary
may provide a partial remedy to problems persuant to an incident.
6. Maintenance of Diocesan Records
A paramount concern is the security of diocesan records and the limits
of confidentiality that may be successfully claimed by church authorities.
This issue is governed by complex discovery decisions in the state and
In civil law the courts allow lawyers who bring suits to [page
39 begins] use the process called "discovery" to make
the defendant (in these cases, bishops and/or dioceses) produce records
and personnel who may be compelled to give sworn testimony.
In the event of a class action suit such as the one that is threatened,
the lawyers bringing the suit shall try to obtain records from each and
every diocese in the country. They shall also try to obtain testimony
from each and every bishop. All this shall be an attempt to document each
and every known instance of sexual misconduct by a priest.
It is important to know what matter should be contained in a priest's
personnel file, considering the very probable discoverability of these
The idea of sanitizing or purging files of potentially damaging material
has been brought up. This would be in contempt of court and an obstruction
of justice if the files had already been subpoened by the courts. Even
if there has been no such subpoena, such actions could be construed as
a violation of the law in the event of a class action suit. On a canonical
level, to sanitize the personnel files could pose a problem of continuity
from one diocesan administration to another.
One other suggestion regarding files has been to move them to the Apostolic
Nunciature where it is believed they would remain secure, in immune territory.
In all [page 40 begins] likelihood
such action would ensure that the immunity of the Nunciature would be
damaged or destroyed by the civil courts.
The canon law law speaks of secret archives. Are these safe from civil
discovery whereas ordinary files might not be? Thus far it appears that
the secret archives afford no more security from discovery than regular
7. Uniformity of Case Management
At this time there is no uniformity of case management. It is desireable
that such uniformity be developed in order to provide optimum assistance
to bishops and diocesan lawyers. The same issues are present in similar
cases in the different diocese such as:
* The confidentiality of diocesan records
* Legal arguments against liability
* The criminal defense posture to be developed for a priest-offender
* The responsibility of insurance companies to act in a manner that
is not detrimental to Church interests
* Legal pleadings to be filed on behalf of all defendants and their
* Potential conflicts between defendants and with insurors
* The public posture of all parties in relationship to the general
public and the wider church community as presented [page
41 begins] in press announcements and stories, statements of
the bishop and other authorities related to the case as well as pulpit
All of the above legal efforts and the many others that arise should
be coordinated so that a single, carefully choreographed theme is presented.
This theme or posture should be consistent in character and design and
produce a result that is advantageious for the Church, victims and the
8. The Discovery of Information that is Circulated About This
Problem If all of the possible questions related to this problem
are posed and a suitable and complete set of answers drawn up and set
forth in the form of a policy manual or procedural guideline, it would
not be advisable to release such a manual/document to the Bishops of the
country or to the diocesan lawyers.
Such information could fall into the hands of either the plaintiffs or
the press and the document itself could be deemed discoverable and used
Nevertheless it is virtually impossible at this time to compose a document
or manual which a) adequately addresses the problem with all of its vitally
important aspects and b) would not cause damage if it fell into the hands
of the press or plaintiffs. [page
Only two major insurance considerations and eight civil law considerations
have been noted for the sake of brevity. This is because the purpose of
this entire document is to provide a basis for understanding both the
enormity and the gravity of the total situation. To continue to list the
hundreds of civil law considerations and the many insurance issues would
expand this document beyond its intended format. Accordingly a limited
listing of the criminal law considerations, clinical and medical considerations
and canon law issues follows.
CRIMINAL LAW CONSIDERATIONS
Every civil jurisdiction (usually by states) has statutes which impose
civil and criminal penalties on persons who engage in illicit sexual activities
with children and/or adolescents. If a cleric is charged with sexual misconduct
civil law suits can be lodged against him and his Ordinary for monetary
damages to the victim and families resulting from felonious conduct. The
offender could also be charged with criminal activity. If a sworn complaint
is received by a police agency or a prosecutor (DA) it is inevitable that
criminal charges will be filed causing the press to publish reports of
the charges. This would lead investigative reporters to delve into the
details of the case.
What follows the pressing of criminal charges is this: upon completion
of the criminal investigation by the police authorities and the D.A.,
an indictment is obtained, the priest or cleric will be apprehended and
arrested, placed in custody i.e., jail pending [page
43 begins] a bond hearing where it will be required that some individual
or entity (Ordinary or Diocese) assume substantial financial obligations
which will allow the priest offender to remain free (in treatment) pending
trial. A very expensive criminal defense will be required prior to and
through the course of the trial. At the conclusion of the trial the priest
will either be acquitted or convicted. Upon conviction the priest will
be sentenced to imprisonment at a state penitentiary. A judge usually
has no choice (depending on the jurisdiction and what the priest is found
guilty of) but to sentence a convicted offender to prison.
1. In most or all jurisdictions there are statutes which require that
instances of child abuse be reported to the civil authorities. The failure
to do so can result in civil and/or criminal penalties.
2. Providing a Criminal Defense
Every instance of sexual molestation of a child is a criminal offense.
A judge must sentence a convicted offender to prison. Though this is more
properly the domain of the canon law, an Ordinary has some degree of obligation
to provide an offender with a competent trial lawyer in order that he
be adequately defended as is his right.
3. Conflict Presented by Civil Cases
The fifth amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides the right to all
who are accused of committing crimes to remain silent and say nothing
to anyone which might [page
44 begins] later be used against the subject in a court of law.
Therefore, should or must the Ordinary provide a criminal lawyer to the
priest prior or in advance of having the initial conversation with the
priest about the complaint. Can the priest refuse to answer the questions
posed by the Ordinary based on his civil constitutional rights in anticipation
of criminal charges being filed against him? Can the Ordinary be forced
to reveal or convey any communication he receives from the priest to police
or prosecution authorities which information would either be utilized
to provide corroborating evidence of the priest's guilt or provide the
very basis for the prosecution. The basic conflict that exists here is
whether or not the priest should honestly communicate with his Ordinary
Though the accused priest is obviously the one in the best position to
provide all of the basic information about the alleged incidents. This
essential information is needed in order to determine how best to proceed
with such matters as treatment plans for the offender; identifying all
of the victims and their families so that adequate intervention can be
planned etc. Nevertheless if the priest, in all good faith provides this
information to his Ordinary it may derogate from his fifth amendment privilege.
This could, in some jurisdictions, literally finish him in terms of a
defense in criminal prosecution. [page
The choice of a criminal attorney at the earliest stage and the creation
of the mutually cooperative relationship between the criminal attorney
and counsel in the civil cases as well as insurance counsel is very important.
4. Unavailability of Plea Bargaining Process
Plea bargaining is process whereby a district attorney and a criminal
defense lawyer reach a binding agreement providing that there shall be
no trial. The defendant, as a result of the plea bargain, admits guilt
to a crime, and receives a minimal sentence, much lighter than the maximum
which might well have been imposed following a trial.
Plea bargains are unavailable in criminal cases where there is the commission
of a heinous and odious crime against a young and defenseless victim.
These cases are very high profile, attracting wide-spread media attention
and these cases enrage communities, all of which creates obvious and subtle
political pressure bearing down on the prosecutor or D.A. This forces
him to bring the cases to trial. District attorneys in these cases want
to make certain that there is no perception in the public or opinion in
the community that because the Church was involved that the D.A. has treated
the priest in a deferential or preferential manner. To prove his political
independence the tendency of most D.A.'s would be to prosecute fully.
[page 46 begins]
5. Extreme Criminal Law Possibilities for Superiors
There have been situations wherein District Attorneys almost pressed criminal
charges against the priest's Ordinary which criminal charges would have
resulted in the indictment, arrest, incarceration, bonding, trial or the
Ordinary. Had this process occurred, upon conviction, the Ordinary would
have been faced with the possibility of serving a severe sentence in the
There are a lot of criminal laws which pertain to an Ordinary in instances
of sexual molestation of children by their subjects. Primarily there are
two broad areas under which this criminal responsibility falls. First,
the area of reporting. Failure to report information regarding sexual
molestation of a child by a priest when such information is available
or in the possession of the Ordinary, is considered a criminal offense
in some states. Secondly, to allow a priest to continue to function, endangering
the health of children, following the receipt of private, confidential
knowledge that this priest victimized a child is considered to be "criminal
neglect" (a crime in many states).
The proposal contained herein seeks to deal with this very serious question.
[page 47 begins]
SIGNIFICANT CLINICAL/MEDICAL CONSIDERATIONS
The section entitled "Clinical/Medical Questions" posed many
of the importance questions which face an ordinary in dealing with a cleric
who is alleged to have committed sexual abuse or a related act on a child
or adolescent. The following considerations in this same area expand on
the problems which the alleged offense poses to the Ordinary. It is intended
that they provide essential information at the outset. These considerations
in no way respond to all of the pertinent questions. [page
SIGNIFICANT CLINICAL/MEDICAL CONSIDERATIONS
Pre-Intervention Strategy by the Ordinary
The Ordinary, rather than a subordinant or vicar, should confront the
cleric as soon as an allegation of a sexual offense is made about the
cleric. The Bishop-Priest relationship for instance, is a very special
one and should be utilized to the fullest both canonically and psychologically,
to intervene immediately if there is a suspicion or allegation of sexual
abuse by a priest.
Prior to speaking with the priest (or cleric) the Ordinary (usually the
bishop except in the case of religious clerics) should speak with a priest-psychologist
who is knowledgeable about this particular problem. This should be done
before the Bishop confronts or speaks with the priest so that the bishop
can obtain some "pointers" on the intervention itself. The priest-psychologist
can also assist the bishop in designing some personalized strategies according
to the nature of the allegations made and the personality of the priest
The Ordinary should make it clear to the priest before even stating the
allegations that it is vitally important that truthfulness exist between
them. The Ordinary should re-assure the priest or cleric that he will
support him legally and financially and that he will also help him to
obtain evaluation and treatment for his problems. However if the priest
chooses not to be fully honest in the initial intervention, the Ordinary
may still be obliged to be helpful but he could/should let the priest
know that he would be disturbed by the lack of truthfulness in the initial
This initial conversation between the Ordinary and the priest may be
one of the most important moments in the sequence of events that will
follow. It is assumed that most Ordinaries in the United States have not
had a great deal [page
49 begins] of experience with child abuse by the clergy and for
that reason they need some professional re-assurance for the initial encounter
with the accused. Each priest or cleric brings a different set of problems
and a different set of circumstances concerning the sexual abuse. The
initial intervention should be tailored accordingly.
What Are the Causes of Sexual Abuse by Roman Catholic Clergy
Once the priest or cleric admits to any type of sexual contact with children
or adolescents it is not appropriate for the Ordinary to delve into the
causes of this sexual abuse. This is best left to the professionals who
have had a good deal of experience in this area and who understand Roman
Nevertheless it is important that the Ordinary have some idea as to what
these causes are so that an appropriate place can be chosen for the evaluation
and treatment of the priest.
A concrete example best: illustrates the question. A 32 year old priest
had been seen by a psychiatrist in private out-patient therapy for 2 1/2
years which included the administration of psytropic medications. For
over a three year period this priest had inappropriately committed sexual
crimes in a public grammar school yard in three different locales. He
was on his way to jail. He had been evaluated by two "excellent"
mental health centers which stated that the inappropriate sexual behavior
was due to early childhood experiences that required intense psychotherapy
and perhaps group therapy.
When the priest was sent to another evaluation center with the capability
of looking at medical, neurological and substance abuse problems as well
as psychiatric and psychological problems, it was found that the priest
had [page 50 begins] been
drinking over one quart of bourbon a day over the past five years but
was unable to admit to having an alcohol problem. In such a case it would
have been inappropriate to have this priest continue to see the private
psychiatrist. Rather alcoholism, the primary disorder, would have to be
treated and then the inappropriate sexual behaviors evaluated after the
patient had been sober for a number of months.
Statistically, at least in regard to adolescent sexual abuse by priests,
drugs and alcohol are the primary complicating problem or "mitigating"
factor that the treatment professionals must deal with. Even though alcohol
or drug abuse is present it does not mean that the sexual problem will
necessarily disappear following treatment. There is however, a greater
likelihood that the individual will be able to exert control and prudence
if he is sober and is monitored over a prolonged period of time. Naturally
treatment should be given for the sexual issues as well as the substance
Further, there are a number of rarer or more unusual disorders that can
cause unusual behavior over a prolonged period of time. These include
such disorders as manic-depressive illness, frontal lobe dysfunction,
temoral lobe epilepsy, brain tumors etc. These problems will never come
to light if a priest of cleric is evaluated at a center that looks only
at the psychological dynamics of the patients family, his adult and religious
life as the source of all problems, using the same model for treatment.
Refer again to the 32 year old priest with two competent evaluation, neither
of which uncovered the problem of alcohol abuse.
How Soon Should the Evaluation Take Place
IMMEDIATELY. As soon as the Ordinary has ascertained
that there is some [page
51 begins] truth to the allegations of sexual abuse by a cleric,
arrangements should be made the same day or the following day at the latest
for the priest's transfer to an evaluation center. The Ordinary may be
familiar with a competent evaluation center or may have discussed such
a center with the priest-psychologist.
It is especially important to understand that evaluation centers may
be located in states having reporting laws which might prove problematic
for the Ordinary. For examples some states have enacted legislation that
does not extend privilege of communication between a patient and his psychologist
or psychiatrist to cases involving child abuse, including sexual abuse
of children. In Massachusetts a therapist, no matter what his training,
must report the incident to the local authorities if there is any indication
that the incident occurred within the state of Massachusetts. It is also
possible that this extends to people who were involved with other adults
who were involved with the incident in the state of Massachusetts. For
this reason this state would be a hazardous area to send a priest for
evaluation because of the stringency and extent of the reporting laws.
Almost all states require and suspend the privileged communication between
mental health professionals and the child if the child is the patient.
A sexually or physically abused child seen by such a mental health professional
must be reported in all 50 states along with the names of the persons
offered by the child.
The point here is that the Ordinary should determine the reporting laws
in the states of possible evaluation centers. It would be wise to consult
with attorneys knowledgeable of these issues prior to sending the priest
The nature of the disorder dictates why the evaluation should be immediate.
We are dealing with compulsive sexual habits which the priest may temporarily
suspend in the face of legal or canonical pressure, but not in all instances.
There are many examples wherein sexual abuse took place very soon after
the [page 52 begins]
the confrontation between the priest and his Ordinary had taken place.
The priest must clearly be seen as one suffering from a psychiatric disorder
that is beyond his ability to control. For this reason...the compulsion
of the disorder...evaluation of the disorder and the separation from temptation
should be immediate and stated as such to the priest by the Ordinary without
the Ordinary experiencing any feelings of misplaced guilt or lack of charity.
This will emphasize to the priest the importance of his being truthful
both to the bishop and to the evaluating mental health professionals.
Should the Alleged Offender See Anyone else Prior to Evaluation
The Ordinary may perceive, as he converses with the priest, that the
latter is not taking the allegations very seriously. If this is true it
is strongly urged that the Ordinary have the priest meet with competent
attorneys conversant in dealing with the issue (whether or not there is
an immediate legal threat). This should be arranged immediately. The attorneys
should outline in detail all of the possible consequences in criminal
law as well as the civil law liability of the priest and the diocese.
This will also be helpful to the evaluation center since the priest will
have a better appreciation of the significance and consequences of his
behavior and perhaps even of the effect it may have had on the victims.
What About Canonical Suspension
A suspension of the cleric, especially if he is a priest, should happen
in all cases. This makes a clear separation between the Ordinary and the
cleric. It is a statement that the man is not capable of carrying out
his sacred functions or ministry until an evaluation is completed and
a determination of his fitness for ministry is made. [page
How Long Does an Evaluation Take
Some mention should be made of the open ended nature of the evaluation.
Many times it takes a week or two for the evaluating center to arrive
at a good picture and feel for the total situation involved with the priest
as well as his diocese or religious community. Most centers will do an
evaluation in five days but usually will extend it in order to better
get to know the priest and his diocese/community. Thus they are in a position
to make a better recommendation to the Ordinary when the evaluation is
What Should an Adequate Evaluation Include
This is a very important question. In the final report the following
should be looked for as part of the evaluation from any competent center.
a. Clear evaluation by the psychologist or psychiatrist who has had
experience in dealing with sex offenders of different types.
b. An evaluation by a chemical dependency counsellor or someone with
equivalent experience in substance abuse to make certain that the person
does not have a history of abuse of alcohol or drugs which would be
contributing to sexual problems.
c. A complete physical and neurological examination completed by an
internist or neurologist.
d. A electroencephelogram done both in the sleep state and with nasopharengel
e. A CT brain scan with and without contrast dye study to rule out
the possibility of intercerebral tumors or other cerebral pathology.
f. Blood and urine laboratory tests that rule out the presence of alcohol
and/or other illicit substances. The lab test should include an evaluation
of liver, kidney, endocrine, lung, heart, and other vital functioning,
all of [page 54 begins]
which may give clues as to the presence of "mitigating: problems
that must be explored.
g. Some neurological assessment including an intelligence test which
will give an idea of the "functional" capacity of the patient.
h. Appropriate psychological tests including projective testing which
may give clues as to the stability of the character structure of the
priest or the pathology of the character structure.
This is not an exhautive but a basic list of tests which should be completed
on a priest who is accused of sexual offenses. In other words, it is important
to have an holistic approach to the problem which helps to discover mitigating
factors which will assist in moving in the correct direction for the appropriate
modality and treatment facility.
How To Choose an Appropriate Treatment Center
This is a most difficult and at the same time important question for
the Ordinary. He may have a center where he has been pleased with the
treatment of priests with other problems. However the "favorite treatment
center" may not be the appropriate center for clerics with sexual
problems, especially if the problem is pedophilia. The following is a
partial list of appropriate questions to be answered.
a. Have the therapists and other professionals of the center had significant
past experience in dealing with sexual abuse/sexual offenders/pedophiles.
Will the priest be supervised by professionals with such experience?
b. What kinds of physical and environmental restrictions will be placed
while the priest is in therapy. Will he be allowed use of a car at any
times? Will there be non-supervised periods in a 24 hour period each
day? Will he be allowed to go out to dinner, entertainments, churches
where he might encounter [page
55 begins] children in the course of his treatment program.
c. Will he be allowed to consume alcohol of any kind. No sex offender
should ever be allowed use of alcohol or drugs in a recreational or
social setting because of the possibility of relaxing inhibitions or
relapse of sexual acts. Total abstinance is a must in order for there
to be hope for abstinance and control of the sexual problem.
d. What are the criteria used to determine the fitness of the priest
for discharge, possible return to ministry. How are these criteria tested
during the treatment program.
e. What self-help group will the priest be required to attend while
in the treatment program as well as after he leaves. It is essential
that there be some form of mandatory self-help group such as AA or a
sex offender group for the rest of this person's life. This should be
started during in-patient treatment and encouraged, to the degree that
the patient is taken to the group if necessary.
f. What concrete follow-up plans are made for the patient after treatment
is concluded. Does he return on a period basis for an aftercare program.
What kind of aftercare programs are set up in the diocese if the priest
is to return to function there. What are the guidelines that will be
given to the Ordinary with reference to future functioning in the diocese.
All of these plus many more questions must be answered. Every treatment
center is not the same nor do all have the same treatment philosophy.
It must be stated unequivocally that a pure psychoanalytic or psychodynamically
based program is inadequate for the treatment of sex offenders. There
must be a multi-disciplinary and multi-dimensional approach to the treatment
of these very special people and it is essential that the Ordinary find
out exactly [page 56
begins] what is offered in and by the different treatment programs
and centers before a decision is made to place the priest in a center
for a prolonged period of time.
Can the Priest Ever Return to Ministry in the Diocese
Individual factors, the extent of the sexual abuse, the extent of the
notoriety involved and the extent of knowedge of the problem are but some
of the factors that go into this question.
The treatment center chosen should be one that works on a "family
model" approach. This means that members of the religious family
involved with the priest prior to treatment should be involved in the
treatment and in the post treatment plans. There should be close communication
and coordination with the diocese or religious community so that when
this question arises during in-patient treatment, it can be answered directly
and specifically and the treatment program moved in such a way as to assist
the priest in looking at his fitness for ministry or finding new ministries
It is inadequate to treat a sex offender in the diocese on a private
psycho therapy model. It should be emphasized that in-patient treatment,
preferably with peers, is the most preferable mode and the one which will
have the best results.
What About the Families of the Victims
This is a very delicate area. While the welfare of the priest-offender
is considered very important to the church officials, the welfare both
at the time of the abuse and well into the future of the victims is most
important and should be given a priority by Ordinaries. The effects of
sexual abuse of children by adults are long lasting and go well into adulthood.
This is well documented though it may well be difficult to predict the
extent of the [page 57
begins] effects in particular cases. We are speaking not only of
psychological effects but also the spiritual effects since the perpetrators
of the abuse are priests or clerics. This will no doubt have a profound
effect on the faith life of the victims, their families and others in
A rather direct approach should be made to the family (in conjunction
with consultation with competent civil attorneys). Psychological help
and other needed assistance should be offered to the victims and their
families. If the family seems disposed to such a move, there should be
some form of healing, if possible, between the priest and the family,
possibly in terms of monitored communication or perhaps even a family
meeting with the priest at some point when the priest, Ordinary and family
are disposed to it.
We have been rather ignorant of the effects of sexual abuse of children
by Catholic clergy over the years because it has never been investigated
or studied in a systematic manner. However from a professional viewpoint,
enough adult persons who have been in therapy in the past several years
have discussed abuse by priests that it seems clear that such abuse has
a profound effect even when it does not come to the attention of parents,
familiy members or the civil or church authorities.
The extent and degree of the sexual abuse, the age of the child at the
time of outset of the abuse, when it was discovered and finished, the
manner in which it was discovered, any other dimensions of relationship
of the priest with the family...these are all factors involved in treating
the victims and their families. Special mental health professionals, trained
and competent in this particular area, should be called on by the Ordinary
to provide help and support as soon as is feasible. This is also a healthy
preventive measure with respect to civil litigation since most families
are eager to help their children and themselves in these embarrassing
and complex psychosocial problems. [page
SIGNIFICANT CANONICAL CONSIDERATIONS
Because of the nature of canon law, as opposed to Anglo-American Common
law, there is a perceieved closer relationship between the proposed canon
law questions and the following discussion of canonical issues. This discussion
is not an attempt to provide definitive answers to these important canonical
issues. This information on the canonical dimensions of these problems
provides a general context within which to work with each specific case.
[page 59 begins]
1. Investigation of Complaints
When a bishop receives a complaint that a priest or deacon has engaged
in sexual misconduct with a minor child, this complaint should be discreetly
investigated at once.
a. The obligation rests with the bishop himself and should not be delegated
to another person. This bishop may see fit to involve trusted advisors
in the process, but he should supervise and directly participate in
the investigation himself. (A private response from the prefect of the
Congregation for the Clergy in 1983 referred to the bishop's obligation
to directly involve himself in disputes regarding priests. The response
stated that this duty is not to be delegated.)
b. The Code of Canon law provides a basis for an investigation in chapter
I, "The Preliminary Investigation," of Book VII, Part IV,
"The Penal Process." These canons (cc. 1717-1719) offer wide
discretion to the bishop in the investigation of complaints. The second
chapter, "The Course of the Process," (cc. 1720-1728) outlines
the manner of proceeding if the preliminary investigation shows that
there is probability that a canonical delict was committed.
c. If the bishop follows the basic procedures outlined in cc. 1717-1719
he need not move to the next phase, a trial. He may simply want to go
on record indicating that the canons provide for a process whereby complaints
may be investigated. Such a course of action could be advantageous if
the civil courts require proof of responsible action by the Church authorities
in light of complaints. Following the canons to some extent shows two
things: the church has a mechanism for protection of the rights of the
faithful (cf. canon 221).
d. The notary: canon law allows lay persons and non-ordained
to hold the office of ecclesiastical notary. §yet canon 483, 2
stipulates that in any case which could involve the
reputation of a priest, the notary must be a priest. Consequently the
person keeping the record of a preliminary investigation or indeed any
process, including the penal process, involving these cases must be
2. Canonical Delicts
For those bound to perpetual continence and in sacred orders, a number
of canonical delicts (crimes) may be committed in the course of sexual
misconduct. Canon 277 refers to the cleric's obligation of perfect continence
as well as his obligation to act and relate prudently to persons. [page
-canon 295, 1: the obligation to shun anything that
is unbecoming the clerical state.
-canon 1395: this canon refers to offenses against
the sixth commandment by clerics. It deals with concubinage and sexual
concourse with women and related scandal in the first paragraph and
with other related offenses, including those involving force, threats
and offenses with children. The canon sets no specific penalties but
merely refers to "just penalties not excluding dismissal from the
-canon 1387: solicitation in the confessional. A priest
who solicits in the confessional or under the pretext of confession
for a sexual act is to be punished with penalties up to and including
dismissal from the clerical state.
-canon 1378: this canon refers to canon 977 (the absolution
of a partner in a sexual sin is invalid except in case of danger of
death). A priest who commits this delict is automatically excommunicated
and the absolution is reserved to the Holy See.
-canon 1389: this canon deals with the general abuse
of ecclesiastical office or power. The crime is to be punished in relation
to its severity.
Clerics who have sexual concourse with women, men or children are obviously
liable to canonical penalties since such actions constitute the matter
for canonical crimes. There are other issues related to these crimes however
and the fact of commission of a crime should not be isolated as the major
The canonical legislation on sexual misconduct indicates that such actions
are contrary to the cleric's essential obligations. The law makes no distinction
between performance of such acts while carrying out ecclesiastical duties
and those perpetrated at other times. These actions are contrary to the
cleric's very way of life and consequently he is obliged at all times.
3. Canonical Penalties Applicable
Although canonical penalties are ordinarily applied at the conclusion
of a trial or process, the unique nature of certain forms of sexual misconduct,
especially sexual abuse of minor children, should preclude such an approach
under most circumstances.
In certain cases, the perpetrator might find himself excommunicated automatically,
such as when he absolves an accomplice. [page
The preferred method of applying appropriate canonical penalties in such
cases would be by way of administrative decree, issued by the Bishop.
The penalty referred to is suspension of the priest from all sacred functions,
ecclesiastical offices and duties.
*** a. Administrative Leave: after the initial report
has been made and the Ordinary has decided that an investigation is
justified, he should proceed according to cc. 1717-1719. The accused
is simply that ... his guilt has not yet been determined. The canons
provide for a kind of "administrative leave" (canon 1722)
whereby the priest or deacon may be asked to leave his residence and
cease all public ministerial functions. This type of action by the bishop
is not only advisable but should be routine. AT THIS POINT THE PRIEST
OF DEACON SHOULD NOT BE SUSPENDED. Suspension is a
canonical penalty which leads to a presumption of guilt. This could
be misconstrued in civil courts and used to the disadvantage of the
church. The priest or deacon has been accused of a delict which is actually
a manifestation or result of a highly compulsive disorder. Although
the actual effects of invoking canon 1722 may be similar to a suspension,
the act whereby these effects take place is not a suspension. There
is no process required beyond that mentioned in the canon. It would
be well to explain to the accused that such action is for his benefit.
[Note: It is not clear whether the three asterisks at the beginning
of this paragraph direct the reader to a note that is missing, or whether
they point to the note on the next page, also marked with a ***.]
Suspension as a canonical penalty may be imposed by
decree for a period of time, following the procedures outlined in the
Code, or it may be imposed perpetually but not by decree. A perpetual
or indefinite suspension can be imposed only after a canonical trial.
In any case, suspension should only be used after the priest or deacon's
guilt has been determined. If the accused is convicted and imprisoned,
he could well be suspended for the duration of his incarceration. Such
action might be advisable to avoid the appearance of tolerating the
actions of pedophiles (but at the same time treating them with compassion).
If it is determined, in conjunction with clinical advisors, that a priest
or deacon can and should not exercise the ministry again because of
the nature of his affliction or its severity, then laicization must
be seriously considered. In the meantime it would be well to suspend
the priest or deacon.
b. Removal from office: Although removal from office
(associate, pastor, etc.) or transfer is not a penal procedure but an
administrative procedure, the law provides for such actions if the ordinary
believes that he has sufficient reason and that it redounds to the good
of the faithful. Canons 1740-1752 set out in detail this procedure as
well as the recourse against a decree or removal or transfer.
The ordinary, upon encountering a case of sexual misconduct, might
give consideration to invoking the canons regarding removal in conjunction
with those pertaining to penal procedures.
Nevertheless it is imperative to clearly understand that transfer or
removal isolated from any other action is far from adequate and could
in fact lead to a presumption of irresponsibility or even liability
of the diocesan authorities by civil courts. In short, those presumed
to be guilty of sexual misconduct, especially if it involves child molestation,
must never be transferred to another parish or post
as the isolated remedy for the situation.
[page 62 begins]
c. Laicization: Canon 290 states that although sacred
ordination, once validly received never becomes invalid, a cleric (priest,
deacon or even bishop) loses the clerical state in three instances:
- when a judgement of a court or administrative decree declares the
ordination to be invalid
- when laicization is lawfully imposed as a penalty
- when laicization is imposed by rescript of the Holy See.
Declaration of the invalidity of ordination is extremely rare and quite
difficult to prove since it involves the intentionality of both the
recipient of holy orders and that of the ordaining prelate. Allegations
of lack of fitness for celibacy would not constitute solid basis to
pursue such a matter.
Although the law includes dismissal from the clerical state (laicization)
as a possible penalty for the offenses mentioned in canons 1387 and
1395, this penalty may not always be imposed on those guilty of sexual
crimes not excluding pedophilia. Canon 1324, 1, 1°, 2°, 3°
indicates that the penalty prescribed by law or precept must be diminished
if the culprit had only imperfect use of reason; lacked use of reason
because of culpable drunkenness or other mental disturbances of a similar
kind; acted in the heat of passion which, while serious, nevertheless
did not precede or hinder all mental deliberation and consent of the
will, provided that the passion itself was not deliberately stimulated.
As is obvious from the above paragraph, it is possible to dismiss a
cleric from the clerical state if he committed canonical crimes involving
sexual misconduct. Yet is he acted under the influence of one or more
of the conditions mentioned in canon 1324 it is not possible to impose
the extreme penalty allowed, namely dismissal.
Dismissal may be prudently considered when it is obvious that the cleric
in question will not be able to fulfill the duties of the clerical state
and sacred orders, even to a minimal degree, because of his compulsion
for illicit sexual activity. In such cases this course of action might
prove to be the most beneficial for the person and for the church. It
would effectively lighten the liability and responsibility of church
authorities for the actions of a cleric who is proven to be completely
incorrigible. The decision to proceed toward dismissal should be made
in conjunction with expert canonical counsel as well as well-founded
clinical advice on the man's situability for the clerical state.
It may happen that situations arise when dismissal is seen to be the
only viable course of action but when, at the same time, a court process
is ill-advised or impossible. In such cases only the Holy See has the
power to issue a rescript whereby a priest or deacon is reduced from
the clerical state. It is possible for the Holy Father to ex officio
laicize a man when it appears that no other course of action is advised.
In such cases the cleric's local ordinary should prepare the petition
for laicization and send it, together with all pertinent material, to
the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The relative urgency
of the case will determine the alacrity with which the case is handled
in Rome. *** Laicization requests arising from pedophilia will be given
serious consideration by the Congregation for the Doctrine fo the Faith
(for priests) and the Congregation for the Sacraments (for deacons).
[Note:] *** Canonical Revision 7-28-86. [page
4. Ecclesiastical Records
Canon law refers to two types of of archives or records: the ordinary
diocesan archives and the secret archives. In fact, there are numerous
types of records kept in most if not all diocesan curias. These include
financial records, lay personnel records, insurance records, priest-personnel
records, tribunal acts etc. In most dioceses the priest-personnel records
are kept in a separate file. What is contained in each priest's file can
vary greatly with the dioceses and its policy. Usually seminary records,
transfer indications, letters of commendation and complaint and other
related matters are kept in the priest's file. In some instances, recorded
conscience matters which would include such matters as sexual misconduct,
are also contained in the priest's file.
b. The diocesan archives: Canon 487 states that only
the bishop and chancellor may have keys to the archives and permission
for entry must be obtained from the bishop, moderator of the curia or
the chancellor. This is a broad canon which implies that the wide range
of materials which could be placed in the archives enjoy a degree of
security and confidentiality. [Note that this paragraph is actually
section a, not section b. This is just a typo in the original typescript;
no text is missing.]
The same canon also states that persons concerned have a right to receive
copies of documents which concern their personal status and are by nature
public. Thus access to certain documents about persons could be restricted
if these are not considered public by nature. Complaints about sexual
misconduct would not be considered public by nature.
Canon 488 states that documents may be removed from the archives only
for a short time and then with the permission of the bishop, moderator
of the curia or chancellor.
While the canon law on diocesan records may be clear and may be presumed
to guarantee security of files and confidentiality, the fact remains
that in certain civil courts in the U.S. decisions have been handed
down which have held that the contents of diocesan records, including
priest-personnel files and even tribunal files, are not absolutely confidential
and thus may be discovered in a civil court process.
b. The secret archives: Canons 489 and 490 refer to
the secret archives of the diocese. The canons describe this as a secure
place which is either separate from the other archives or, if this is
not possible, is a place in the diocesan archives which is secure. Only
the bishop is to have the key to the secret archives.
The canons do not describe in detail what is to be kept in the secret
archive. Yet canon 489, 2 states that documents of criminal cases concerning
moral matters are to be destroyed if the guilty parties have died or
ten years after the sentence in the case has been pronounced. This implies
(an implication confirmed by commentaries on the similar canon in the
1917 Code) that cases involving moral and criminal matters are by their
very nature the matter of the secret archives. They are secret when
actually in the place of the archives or not. Canon 1719 clearly states
that the acts of the inves- [page
64 begins] tigation of the penal process, the decrees of the
ordinary by which the investigation was opened and closed and all other
matters which preceded the investigation are to be kept in the secret
archives. By this canon it is clear that all documents related to a
penal process, even though this process may not be concluded by sentence,
are to be kept in the secret archives.
If for instance, complaints of sexual misconduct are investigated by
the ordinary, every document pertaining to the complaint could be construed
to be related to the preliminary and formal investigation of the penal
process and thereby part of the secret archives.
Although the inviolability of the secret archives is clear in canon
law, it is not so certain that such is to be respected by the civil
law. Random legal opinions indicate that even the serious matters contained
in the secret archives could be subpoened in the civil courts. The matter
is still under research.
As a possible manner of distinguishing between the diocesan archives
and the secret archives which pertain to priest-personnel problems,
the bishop could have all material related to conscience matters of
a moral nature placed in separate files which he personnally would keep,
at his residence for instance. These could be labelled "conscience"
files or something similar which would indicate that they contained
matters which only the bishop, in keeping with his unique relationship
to the priest, had access to.
c. Recording sexual abuse: Reports of alleged sexual
abuse or sexual misconduct as well as records of investigations should
be kept in the secret archives and certainly not in the diocesan archives
or the ordinary priest-personnel files.
5. The Limits of A Bishop's/Superior's Responsibility
The question involves the limits of a bishop's responsibility for those
clerics who are working or living in his diocese. This responsibility
is looked upon differently in civil law and canon law, yet the civil law
might well look to the canon law to clarify questionable areas.
a. The relationship to incardinated clerics: It is
clear that a bishop Is responsible for clerics who are incardinated
to his diocese. This includes diocesan priests, transient deacons destined
for ordination to the priesthood and permanent deacons. Canon 273 states
that clerics have a special obligation to show respect and obedience
to their own ordinary and to the Supreme Pontiff. The bishop also assigns
ecclesiastical offices in his diocese, including pastorates and associate
pastorates, by free conferral (canons 157, 523, 547, 682). This means
that the bishop alone has the power and the right to confer an ecclesiastical
office or, in other words, to make an assignment. In those dioceses
which have personnel boards or officers, these have no power nor can
they be given the power to make assignments or confer offices. These
canons are based on the nature of the episcopal office and the contingent
relationship of the bishop to his cleric-subjects. [page
b. The relationship to visiting clerics: It is common
for clerics, especially priests, to work or study in dioceses other
than their own by incardination, for temporary periods of time of varying
length. The usual custom to to seek the permission of the local bishop
for such a cleric to live and work in the host diocese, with the permission
of his own bishop. This possibility is outlined in canon 271, 2, 3.
Such a cleric working in a diocese other than his own is responsible
to the host bishop for the apostolic work he does and for his actions
which carrying out his clerical duties. Because the bishop is the head
of the local church, his responsibility for all clerics
living and working under his jurisdiction is comprehensive as is the
responsibility of these clerics to the bishop. Although the law does
not mention it, the cleric's proper ordinary would seem to have an obligation
in justice to inform the host ordinary of any problems the cleric might
have which would possibly have an effect on his life and work in another
c. Religious clerics: Clerics who are members of religious
institutes have their own major superiors as their proper Ordinary.
This superior is usually called a "provincial." It is not
the local superior of the community in which the religious lives but
the superior over the territorial grouping of religious of the same
institute. The major superior's responsibility to his clerics is similar
to that of the bishop to his clerics.
Religious living and working in a diocese are subject to the local
bishop in those matters which involve education, public worship or the
apostolate (canon 678). In most cases they are not subject to the bishop
in the internal ordering of their lives. This is known as the privilege
of exemption which applies to most clerical religious institutes (known
also as orders, congregations and in some cases, societies). Nevertheless
if the local bishop becomes aware of serious internal abuses he may
intervene if appeals to the proper religious superior prove to be ineffectual
(canon 683, 2).
In matters of sexual misconduct, a religious cleric is responsible
both to his own superior and to the bishop of the diocese in which he
lives/works/resides. If the bishop becomes aware of an alleged incident
he is within his rights to notify the religious' proper ordinary and
also to conduct his own preliminary investigation. The law gives the
local bishop the right to impose a suspension on a religious cleric
by reason of penalty (canon 1341-42) and by means of an administrative
decree or precept (canons 48-58)
A bishop may also forbid a religious to remain in his diocese for grave
reasons (and alleged sexual misconduct would certainly be one) provided
the cleric's major superior has been informed and has failed to act.
The latter Is to be reported to the Holy See (canon 679).
d. Suspended clerics: Is the diocesan bishop responsible
for priests or deacons whom he has suspended (or someone else has suspended).
It is clear that such clerics are merely suspended and are not dismissed,
thus they remain clerics and the local bishop is still responsible for
vigilance over [page
66 begins] such clerics. Similarly the clerics are responsible
to their bishop. If for instance, a bishop were aware of an act of sexual
misconduct by a suspended cleric, he could not absolve himself of responsibility
or possible liability by the fact of the cleric's suspension.
e. The bishop's financial responsibility: The nature
of the bishop's relationship to support his clerics has changed from
the 1917 Code. The 1983 Code (canon 281, 1, 2) refers to the support
of priests and transient deacons and non-married permanent deacons in
some circumstances. Essentially a bishop is obliged to provide remuneration
to the cleric as befits his condition taking into account
both the nature of the cleric's office and the conditions of time and
place. The second paragraph states that suitable provision be made for
such social welfare as the cleric may need in infirmity, sickness or
Also, canon 1350, 1 says "In imposing penalties on a cleric, except
in the case of dismissal from the clerical state, care must always be
taken that he does not lack what is necessary for his worthy support."
To arrive at the canonical nature of the bishop's financial responsibility
one must study the two canons in context.
First, it is clear that the bishop responsible is the bishop of incardination.
Secondly, he is obliged to support his clerics but not unrealistically.
The bishop may not withdraw all support from a cleric who is withdrawn
from an assignment pending an investigation into sexual misconduct.
If the allegation is proven and the cleric is suspended, the bishop
must study the cleric's needs and his capacity to support himself and
if necessary, he (the bishop) is obliged to assist in supporting the
This support includes provision for psychiatric and medical care. A
bishop cannot waive his obligation to such support by explicitly excluding
clerics involved in sexual misconduct. Is the bishop bound to provide
legal assistance to clerics in trouble? Strictly speaking his is not,
however he may choose to do so out of charity and with a view to the
impression that could arise if refused to assist a cleric in trouble
in such a manner.
The second paragraph of canon 1350 states that if a cleric is dismissed
and is truly in need, then the bishop is obliged to provide for him
in the best way possible.
The matter of financial support is most important since clerics involved
in sexual misconduct, especially pedophilia will most probably be suspended
and will need extensive psychiatric care as well as legal assistance.
The cleric may have little means of outside support and will therefore
depend on the bishop or diocese for help. Like a cleric suffering from
cancer, a pedophiliac suffers from a serious emotional/mental disorder.
Unlike the cleric suffering from a physical disease, the symptoms of
the pedophiliac's illness are also criminal actions.
f. Responsibility for Permanent Deacons: A permanent
deacon, married or not, is a cleric and not a layman. When the code
refers to clerics, it includes both deacons and priests with no distinction
between transient [page
67 begins] and permanent deacons. Married deacons are not obliged
to continence but are obliged to chastity which precludes sexual relations
with others than their wives. In the event that permanent deacons committed
sexual misconduct, the bishop would have a responsibility to investigate
the incident and to take appropriate action. The permanent deacon may
also be suspended as can a priest. In the event that it is necessary
to laicize a permanent (or transient deacon) this too is possible, yet
the process is handled through the Congregation for the Sacraments rather
than the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which handles laicization
The bishop is responsible for just remuneration for permanent deacons
who work for the church full-time. In the United States
most permanent deacons have full-time professions or employment and
work for the church on a part-time basis. Canon 281, 3 states that married
deacons (and presumably single permanent deacons) whose support themselves
and their families from secular employment are not entitled to support
from the bishop as well.
It appears from a reading of the canon that a bishop is not obliged
to provide for medical or psychiatric care or legal expenses for permanent
deacons involved in sexual misconduct.
6. The Canonical Nature of the Bishop-Cleric Relationship
The civil law will look to canon law as well as theology to aid in understanding
the nature of a cleric's relationship to his bishop and to his diocese.
A cleric is bound to his diocese through incardination which takes place
at the time he received the sacred order of deacon. Under the 1917 Code
a cleric became incardinated at the time he received first tonsure, probably
two or three years before ordination to the diaconate. By incardination
the cleric is bound to the diocese in a special manner. He is not simply
a resident but is a kind of ecclesiastical public servant. This pertains
to permanent deacons as well as other clerics.
The priest especially is bound in a special way to the diocese because
he called by Vatican II a "collaborator" with the bishop. His
life's work, calling or occupation is ordered to the work of the church,
ordinarily in his diocese. A priest or deacon may live and work in another
diocese yet remain incardinated to his own diocese and responsible primarily
to his own bishop.
The cleric owes reverence and obedience to his bishop. Here the law (canon
273) refers to the bishop of the diocese of incardination. At the time
of ordination to the diaconate and again to the priesthood the cleric
make a promise of obedience to his ordinary and the ordinary's successors.
By this promise the cleric owes the bishop obedience in all things that
are neither sinful nor illegal.
The relationship of the bishop and his priest differs theologically and
[page 68 begins]
canonically from that of the bishop to a deacon. This difference would
have little impact in the civil law understanding of the overall relationship
of bishop to cleric. Nevertheless since most of the problems exist with
priests this special relationship should be well understood.
The bishop-priest relationship is unique. Clearly the bishop is much
more than an employerr since the priest is responsible
to him for all areas of his life and not merely those hours during which
he is exercising priestly ministry. The priest owes complete obedience
to his bishop and it is the bishop alone who has the power, by reason
of office, to transfer or assign a priest.
The priest is also referred to as a cooperator with
the bishop. One of the post-Vatican II documents says "All priests...share
and exercise with the bishops the one priesthood of Christ. They are thus
constituted providential cooperators of this episcopal order. The diocesan
clergy have however, a primary role in the care of souls because, being
incardinated in or appointed to a particular church, they are wholly dedicated
in its service...and accordingly form one priestly body and one family
of which the bishop is the father." (Christus Dominus, n.
Likewise says the conciliar document on the priesthood: "All priests
share with the bishops the one identical priesthood and ministry of Christ.
Consequently the very unity of their consecration and mission requires
their hierarchical union with the Order of Bishops...Bishops will regard
them as indispensable helpers in the ministry and in the task of teaching,
sanctifying and shepherding the people of God." (Presbyterorum
Ordinis, n. 7).
The essential responsibility of a bishop for his priests is rooted in
their common sharing of the same priesthood: "On account of this
common sharing in this same priesthood and ministry then, bishops are
to regard their priests as brothers and friends and are to take the greatest
interest they are capable of in their welfare both temporal and spiritual."
(Ibid., p. 7)
Most priests are either pastors or associate pastors. Others may be teachers,
preachers, administrators etc. The canons use a technical term to describe
the special and unique authority and responsibility that certain offices
hold in relation to the pastoral ministry...cura animarum or
"care of souls." This term is directly connected with the office
of bishop and the office of pastor. Others share in it or participate
in it but do have have it in its fullness. According to canon 519 the
pastor "exercises the pastoral care of the community entrusted to
him under the authority of the bishop whose ministry of Christ he is called
to share..." A pastor must be a priest according to canon 521, 1.
A diocesan priest (pastor, associate pastor etc.) is not automatically
a vicar of the bishop, that is, one who represents the
bishop and functions on power delegated by the bishop. The law provides
for vicars in special places. The pastor has his own authority which he
obtains by reason of his office, conferred on him by the bishop. While
he may enjoy certain powers delegated him by the bishop, his basic pastoral
powers come to him by the very office he holds. [page
Parish priests are not paid directly by the bishop but are paid from
parish funds. The IRS considers priests to be self-employed.
7. The Church's Canonical Understanding of Its Identity
In lawsuits against employees of the Catholic Church it is not uncommon
for the person to be named along with other authority figures in the hierarchical
structure of the church. This includes local ordinaries, metropolitan
archbishops, papal representatives and the Holy Father himself in some
cases. Because of this tendency it is helpful to clarify the canonical
dimension of the relationship of church entities.
a. The Diocese: canon 368 refers to Particular church,
the diocese being the principle example. A particular church is a portion
of the people of God entrusted to a bishop (canon 369). Only the Holy
Father has the power to establish, alter or suppress a diocese (canon
373) or any other type of ecclesiastical jurisdiction.
The diocesan bishop, also referred to as the local ordinary, has all
of the ordinary, proper and immediate power required for the exercise
of his office in the diocese except in those matters which the Pope
has reserved to himself or to other ecclesiastical authorities.
The diocese is composed of parishes which are erected or suppressed
by the authority of the diocesan bishop. He has complete authority in
his diocese including the power to enact legislation to a certain extent
and according to the norms of the universal canon law. Canon 391 states
that the bishop governs the diocese with legislative, executive and
judicial power. In all juridical transactions the bishop acts in the
person of the diocese (canon 393).
The bishop's immediate superior is the Holy Father. The Pope alone
has the authority to name a bishop, appoint him to a diocese, remove
him or ask for his resignation.
Each diocese is to have its own administrative offices and organs and
its own court, called a tribunal. A diocese is not dependent in any
way for its on-going existence on other dioceses. The bishops of the
world belong to what is known as the "college of Bishops."
This is a union of the bishops as successors of the apostles with the
Pope at its head. It functions in solemn form when in ecumenical council.
b. The Metropolitan and the Province: Dioceses are
arranged according to geographical areas called provinces. The major
entity in a province is called the archdiocese. The other dioceses are
called suffragan dioceses. The head of the archdiocese is known as the
Metropolitan Archbishop. He has no power of governance over the suffragan
dioceses but can celebrate sacred functions in churches in these other
dioceses (canon 436).
The metropolitan archbishop is not the superior of the bishops of the
[page 71 begins; there is no
page 70] province. He can exercise moral suasion over them but
they are not bound to obey him or accept his advice unless the metropolitan
is delegated by the Pope in particular occasions. It is clear that the
individual bishops do not report to the metropolitan nor is the metropolitan
responsible for the decisions or actions of the bishops. The only power
given him by law is to appoint an administrator of a diocese if the
see is vacant and if the diocesan consultors have failed to duly elect
one. Also, he may conduct a visitation of a diocese if needed but only
with the permission of the Holy See.
c. The Episcopal Conference: The episcopal conference,
an entity which grew out of Vatican II, is the assembly of all of the
bishops in a country. Conferences are established, altered or suppressed
only by the Holy See. (Canons 447 and 449). The conference can enact
legislation or decrees only when this is provided for in the universal
law of the church (canon 455). The conference is not a legislative body
nor does it have executive or judicial power over the individual bishops
of the country. It exists primarily as a service organization to assist
the bishops in their pastoral work. The size and complexity of each
individual conference's permanent staff varies from country to country.
The Episcopal conference in the United States, as in other countries,
does not have authority over the individual bishops nor does it have
a right by church law to intervene in diocesan affairs. The president
of the conference is elected for a set term by the bishops. He has no
authority over the individual bishops nor over the national church as
a whole. The law allows the conference or the president to speak in
the name of all of the bishops only when each and every bishop gives
his consent (canon 455, 4).
The national conference of bishops is not the equivalent of a national
Catholic Church. The dioceses do not form a federation. Their identity
in the law would remain the same with or without the conference.
d. Juridic persons: Aggregates of persons or things
which are directed to the church's mission in some way may be given
the status of a juridic person either by provision of the law itself
or by an act of a superior competent to create a juridic person. A juridic
person is similar but not entirely analogous to a corporation. Dioceses
are juridic persons.
e. The Apostolic Pro-Nuncio: The papal representative
in the United States is known as the Apostolic Pro-nuncio. He is the
personal representative of the Holy Father to the American Church and
the ambassador of the Holy See to the United States. He enjoys power
or authority which is given to him by law (since he usually is an archbishop)
or is delegated by the Holy See.
The papal representative has no direct authority over the individual
bishops. He assists the bishops by action and advice while leaving intact
the exercise of their lawful power. The papal representative may act
only upon instructions of the Holy See. He may not interfere in the
internal workings of a diocese nor may he remove or censure bishops
in any way.
Similarly bishops are not bound to report to the Papal representatives
[page 72 begins]
concerning their personnel nor the internal workings of the diocese
except in cases specifically defined by law. By weight of his office,
the papal representative can exercise a certain degree of moral authority
over the individual bishops but has no direct, canonical authority.
Finally, the papal representative enjoys diplomatic immunity. While
he may be a citizen of this or that country, he carries a Vatican diplomatic
passport for the duration of his service with the Holy See.
8. The Advisability of Reporting Incidents to Church Authorities
Although the diocesan bishop is bound to report only to the Holy See
in just about every case, it is advisable that incidents of sexual misconduct
among the clergy be reported to certain ecclesiastical authorities. This
of course would depend on the nature of the incident, the amount of publicity
attending it and the possible civil law ramifications. Naturally there
is a difference between an action which has moral culpability only and
an action which is morally wrong but also constitutes matter for criminal
prosecution or civil liability.
When an incident of alleged child molestation is reported to a bishop
he may have an obligation in civil law to report it to civil authorities.
No such obligations exists in canon law. Nevertheless, if the incident
and the cleric's identity remain confidential, the bishop may wisely refrain
from widespread reporting. It may be advisable in every instance to report
the incident to the Papal representative in the event of a subsequent
inquiry from the Holy See. Rather than communicate directly to the Holy
See, a bishop should communicate through the papal representative.
A bishop is not bound to report incidents to the Metropolitan archbishop
nor to the President of the episcopal conference or the conference staff,
including the office of the general counsel.
9. Vigilance in the Seminaries
No man has a right to enter a seminary nor a right to remain in the seminary.
The law states that the bishop is to admit to a seminary only those candidates
whose human, moral, spiritual and intellectual gifts as well as physical
and psychological health show that they are capable of dedicating themselves
permanently to ministry (canon 241, 1).
The bishop who sponsors the candidate is responsible for him. Yet the
seminary may not be in the same diocese. The bishop then depends on the
seminary rector and staff to assist him in determining if the candidate
is suitable for ordination. A seminary rector or staff may dismiss a candidate
yet a bishop still may place him in another seminary or ordain him.
Seminaries fall under the authority of the bishop of the diocese in which
they exist. If the seminary is an inter-diocesan seminary by decree of
the Holy See, all of the bishops involved share authority. [page
A seminarian may be dismissed from a seminary by the rector if the statutes
of the seminary provide for this, or by the bishop. He need not be told
why he is being dismissed and he has no right of appeal of any kind. Canon
1029 [original typescript reads 10129] stipulates that those who are to
be ordained must, in the judgement of the bishop, be motivated by the
right intention, enjoy a good reputation, have moral probity and the physical
and psychological qualities appropriate to the order to be received. If
the bishop even suspects deficiencies in a candidate he may refuse to
ordain him even without indicating why. There is no recourse or appeal
since there is no right to ordination.
Canon 1041, 1° states that one who suffers from any form of insanity
or from another psychological infirmity is "irregular" for receiving
orders. Experts are to be consulted to determine if the person's infirmity
will make him incapable of exercising orders properly. By irregularity
is meant a kind of impediment that must be dispensed from either by the
bishop or the Holy See depending on the circumstances.
10. Religious Clerics
The canonical considerations listed above pertain equally to clerics
who are members of religious institutes. Since there are different kinds
of religious communities, it is important to understand the differences:
a. Religious institutes: this is the canonical term
for groups of men or women who take public vows and are recognized and
erected as a religious institute. These were commonly known as Orders,
Congregations or Societies in the past and still are to a certain extent.
b. Secular institutes: these are recognized organization
of clerics or laity who belong without taking public vows nor living
a common life.
c. Societies of Apostolic Life: these organizations
lead a common life, pursue an apostolate but do not take public vows.
The major superiors of religious institutes of men are known as Ordinaries."
Their power and authority as well as responsibility for their subjects
is similar to that of a bishop. In some ways, because of the vow of obedience,
the religious superior may have even greater authority over his subjects.
Religious institutes are usually divided geographically into provinces
with members living in religious houses. A religious ordinary is responsible
for those subjects assigned to his province or those assigned to another
province but living in his province. The method of assignation and the
terms used differs from one community to another. [page
SELECTED SPIRITUAL CONCERNS
In addition to the other effects of sexual abuse on children and their
families, since the perpetrators are priests or members of the clergy,
there will also be serious "spirtual" consequences. Those affected
include the victims, their immediate families as well as others in their
circle of friends and acquaintences. There will also be serious spiritual
consequences for the wider church community. Spiritual concerns also encompass
the cleric-offenders and other members of the clergy in the diocese and
in other areas.
l. Sexual abuse of a child by a cleric, especially a priest, can have
a devastating effect on the child's short and long term perception of
the church and its clergy. How will the child be able to perecive the
clergy as authentic, unselfish ministers of the Gospel and the Church
as the Body of Christ.
2. The victim's capacity to develop trusting relationships with adult
clergy will be impaired.
3. The abused child's faith in the sacraments as sources of grace and
communications with Christ, through the ministry of a priest, will be
4. Depending on the manner with which Church authorities deal with
the case, the victim and others may quickly deveop a perception of Church's
leadership as ineffective and unauthentic [page
75 begins] vis-a-vis its commitment to all of its members and
not simply its commitment to its leaders and the clergy.
5. Church attendance by the victims their families and other members
of the faithful may decline.
6. Help must be given to priest-offenders to discern the nature of
their commitment to the priesthood, the reasons for their choice of
this vocation, their hopes and plans for the future and the real possibility
that they are almost totally unfit to be priests.
7. Other priests and clerics who are not affected with sexual problems
may perceive a severe hampering in their ability to minister, particularly
to and with children. They might become very fearful of even touching
children such as blessing them, making normal signs of affection etc.
8. In addition to the overall problem of the image of the Church as
a haven for homosexuals and sexual perverts, the image of the priesthood
is severely hampered and the faith of many in the priesthood is threatenedby
the fact of priests who are sex offenders as well as by the way the
problems are handled or mishandled by Church authorities.
9. The victims and possibly even their families may develop unwarrented
feelings of guilt because of the contact with priests. This can be complicated
by an unwillingness to accept a priest as the minister of forgiveness
and absolution with consequent inabilitiy [page
76 begins] to alleviate the guilt feelings through the traditional
channels of absolution. [page
PUBLIC RELATIONS CONSIDERATIONS
1. The necessity for careful consideration of this aspect of the problem
is self-evident. The negative impact of widespread sexual abuse of children
and involvement in other forms of illicit sexual activity by Catholic
clergy and religious cannot be underestimated nor the full import be realistically
assessed. One initial indicator is provided by the most recent attention
given to the problem in the secular press as well as the National Catholic
2. The first objective, of which one must never loose sight, is to maintain,
preserve and seek to enhance th credibility of the Church as a Christian
community. The Church should be presented as a sensitive, caring and responsible
entity which gives unquestioned attention and concern to the victims of
misconduct by priests. The Church should not be presented as or identified
with only the hierarchy or the governing structures or the clergy. The
P.R. approach can emphasize positive programs utilizing imaginative and
creative thnking converting adversity to advantage.
3. A second objective of the media policy should be the public separation
of the offender from the church authorities. In appropriate cases the
offender must be made to accept the consequences of his actions and the
public must be made to understand that the offender's acceptance of this
respons- [page 78 begins]
ibility indicates that the church authorities could not have done anything
to prevent the incident (in cases wherein this assertion is true). Separation
does not mean that the church authorities abandon the offender. It means
that his action will be portrayed not as an action of the church or an
action even indifferently condoned by the Church but an action which the
church views as profoundly unfortunate.
4. A third objective is to adopt a policy which in all cases will carefully
control and monitor the tonal quality of all public statements made about
particular cases or the general problem. This will include statements
to and in the secular and Catholic press, letters of bishops to their
clergy and faithful, remarks of Church authorities, pulpit announcements
etc. All statements including written legal pleadings must be entirely
consistent and aligned with the image of the Church in the minds of the
general public, the Catholic community, jurors, judges, prosectors and
plaintiffs. The church cannot step out of character at any stage of the
process through any action including the action of legal counsel.
5. The church must remain open and avoid the appearance
of being under seige or drawn into battle. All tired and worn policies
utilized by bureacracies must be avoided and [page
79 begins] cliches such as "no comment" must be cast
away. In this sophisticated society a media policy of silence implies
either necessary secrecy or cover-up.
6. Policy analysts and media consultants can construct sound, specific
targeted policies to be utilized in response to localized or regional
publicity which may be adverse to the Church's best interests. Broad general
policies of a national scope can be put in place. Most important,very
specific thematic policies can be developed for each phase of a developing
problem from its discovery to its conclusion. [page
It is proposed that the appropriate body of the National Conference of
Catholic Bishops authorize and fund the following described Project.
A Committee of the NCCB would be fully authorized and empowered to allocate
authority and funding at its discretion, within pre-determined bounds,
to a Group of four - five Bishops, holding degrees in Civil Law and/or
Canon Law, to be named by the Committee. This Group of Bishops would be
fully authorized, subject to the supervision of the Committee, to contract
services of consultants and otherwise do any and all things necessary
to conduct and carry out the mission of the Project, within the budget
guidelines set in the grant of authority.
The Group of Four:
These Bishops would act immediately to contract the services of consultants
in forming two distinct and separate entities: (1) A Crisis Control Team,
and (2) A Policy and Planning Group. [page
Thereafter, these Bishops would act as an Ad Hoc Committee of the Whole,
in administering and supervising the efforts of the Team, which would
primarily be concerned with assisting in developing cases in different
Dioceses where requested, and the Group, which would be engaged in long
term planning in an effort to put together competent and comprehensive
policy recommendations to ultimately be considered by the Committee and
in certain circumstances by the body of the National Conference of Catholic
The Crisis Control Team:
Initially, the Crisis Control Team should include a full time Trial Lawyer
with experience and expertise in the civil and criminal aspects of the
problem. This Trial Lawyer shall close his practice and shall anchor both
the Team and Group, which is more fully explained in the following material.
The second position on the Crisis Control Team shall be occupied by a
Canon Lawyer, who shall give priority to duties with the Team.
The third position shall be filled by a Psychiatrist.
In time, this core group shall expand its personnel resources. However,
this expansion shall not be rapid, as it is critical to maintain the level
of expertise and experience specifically, and overall competence generally.
[page 82 begins]
The expansion of resources shall ideally occur on a regional, geographic
plane. An effort shall be made to recruit and work closely with others,
giving them the benefit of the civil, criminal, canonical and clinical
experience and expertise, so that they shall be equally suited to respond
to a request for assistance.
All actions of this team are subject to the authority of the Group of
Bishops which created the Team.
The Policy and Planning Group:
This Group would be made up of; the Group of Four Bishops, secondly,
members of the Committee which created the Group of Bishops, and finally,
the members of the Crisis Control Team.
In addition, it is contemplated that a wide array of consultants with
expertise in different disciplines would be consulted to perform services
for this Policy and Planning Group.
Thus, in addition to those listed in the preceeding paragraph, the Group
would also consist of, either temporarily or permanently, the following,
non-exclusive listing of personnel:
*Psychiatrists and Psychologists with expertise in evaluation and treatment
of offenders as well as victims and their families.
*Psychiatrists and Psychologists with expertise in screening, testing,
and evaluating emotional stability and vocational suitability.
*Directors of Seminaries and/or other similar Religious Houses of formation.
[page 83 begins]
*Consultants with expertise in Insurance Planning, Institution of Self
Insured, single risk programs.
*Policy Analysts with expertise in loss management.
*Attorneys with expertise in Uniformity in Case Management in multiple
*Attorneys with specialized expertise in either narrow constitutional
areas or broad based areas such as Federal Class Actions.
*Representatives of Religious and Lay Medical Treatment Facilities.
*Persons with expertise in area of Personnel, i.e. Religious Personnel
Directors from Orders or the Personnel Directors of large, medium and
*A scholar in Canon Law to provide specific information required by
*Policy Analyst with expertise in media management, formulation, implementation,
and administration of general media policy as well as a specific, targeted
media policy designed to deal with a single issue.
An Administrative Assistant would work with both the Team and the Group
to provide support services and facilitate the flow of information amongst
the members. [page 84
SCOPE OF SERVICES
The Crisis Control Team:
First, the Team would not replace any individuals on either the national
or local scene. Their function, where requested, would be to supplement
the efforts of others and assist those who are presently positioned nationally
and locally, and to devote their full time exclusively to the Project
and problems encountered.
Second, their on-site involvement at a local level would only be in response
to a request from a Bishop or Religious Ordinary to provide advice, assistance,
guidance or active participation in the problem solving process.
Finally, a mechanism would immediately be put in place so that any Bishop
or Religious Ordinary confronted with a problem would have knowledge of
whom to contact for assistance. Once contacted the scope of services rendered
would range to and include any of the following:
1. Perform legal and factual investigations on-site, with the cooperation
and assistance of local parties, compile results and report assessment
of the situation to the local Bishop, with recommendations it requested.
2. Arrange for and/or conduct evaluation of person accused and process
person for treatment at appropriate facility. [page
3. Assist in satisfying any Canonical requirements as same may be scrutinized
in Civil proceedings.
4. Assist in researching all applicable criminal and civil statutes
with Diocesan Lawyer and gaining compliance with all.
5. Advise local parties, priests and psychiatrists in regard to drawing
a plan for immediate intervention with families of victims with least
possible negative fallout.
6. Where Civil litigation is probable, examine all evidence and assist
in setting strategy which contemplates all possible courses. Particularly
in these cases, force insurors to act immediately in appointing counsel
and meet with insurors to explore settlement or set strategy.
7. Where Criminal action is contemplated, assist in interviewing and
selecting Criminal counsel to be retained, seeking cooperation if feasible.
8. In all matters where court cases are anticipated, assist in drawing
pleadings to protect the confidentiality of the process. In Criminal
cases, such orders are recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court, silencing
all participants and cutting off flow of information to press. In Civil
cases, the efficacy of such a Court order varies from one jurisdiction
to another. However, such orders have been recognized to protect identity
of juveniles. [page
9. In all such court cases, all uniform information and pleadings which
are particularly important, such as suppressing or quashing subpoenas
for Diocesan Records, all such information would be furnished to local
10. Where the press is already involved or it is anticipated they shall
be involved, assistance would be rendered in formulating a media policy
for every stage of the proceeding from discovery of the occurence through
settlement, judgment or conviction.
11. When requested, Team members would become active participants in
the process locally. Particularly, the trial lawyer, if requested, would
enroll as co-counsel and assist in the handling of the entire case,
including preparation of witnesses, taking of testimony and conduct
12. In the interim, when not involved in assisting in the management
of a crisis, the Team, among other things, would:
A. Coordinate and assume responsibility for searching out, interviewing,
and recommending the retention of experts in other geographic regions
in an effort to expand the resources of the Team.
B. Commence and complete a study of the available treatment facilities
in each state, the statutory laws in each state relating to the situation,
and all other [page
87 begins] relevant data to be compiled and catalogued on a
state by state basis.
C. Commence and complete the compilation of all works of legal scholars
and medical experts in the field, continuously adding to the data
bank and refining the sample pleadings and other legal and medical
advice to be offered.
D. Continuously monitor those situations in which the Team has been
invited to intervene, developing standard monitoring procedures to
be utilized in tracking developments.
E. The entire Team would remain responsive on a twenty-four hour
basis, year around, to render assistance where requested.
F. Work with the Policy and Planning Group.
The Policy and Planning Group:
There is no necessity for a detailed discussion of the scope of services
to be provided by this Group. A perusal of the personnel who shall compromise
the Group, coupled with an understanding of the nature of the problem
is self-explanatory of their purpose. It is contemplated that very comprehensive
and competent policies and procedures shall be produced by the Group for
consideration by the Committee. [page
In order to protect and provide a privilege to both the Team and the
Group, it is contemplated that:
1. A base contract shall be executed between the Group of Four Bishops
and the Trial Lawyer which, among other things, shall provide that (a)
a client-counsel relationship exist between the Group of Four and the
Lawyer, (b) between the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and
the Lawyer, and (c) between each Diocese and the Lawyer.
This shall be done in an effort to avoid discovery of any information
transmitted by any of the clients to counsel to any of the clients,
providing as free a flow of information as possible without the discovery
of plaintiffs or press.
2. All consultants who shall work on the Team or with the Group shall
be retained under contract with the Trial Lawyer and not with anyone
else. All of their fees and expenses shall be paid by the Trial Lawyer
and the entirety of their work product shall be performed for him.
This is in an effort to legally shield from discovery all of the sensitive
studies and other materials which might be generated during the existence
of the Project. [page
3. The only official evidence that this Project was ever proposed or
in fact exist, assuming each of these documents is returned without
copying, would be the base contract between the Bishops and the lawyer
which document by its very nature is private, privileged and may not
4. In the confidential discussions mentioned hereinabove, it was the
consensus that this work might best be performed by an Ad Hoc group
in a method and manner whereby only the final product is officially
provided to an existing Committee of the National Conference and in
the interim, perhaps forever, subpoenas would be avoided.
5. It is the intention to locate this Team and center the Group in
a large metropolitan area where required resources (university faculty,
etc.) are readily available. [page
Though each case of felonious sexual misconduct is bound to be different
with regard to circumstances, notoriety, possible liability, there is
also a set of common threads which weave through all such cases. The very
fact that these cases involve clerics of the Roman Catholic Church who
have committed acts which are considered by society to be dispicable and
heinous and which have received a very high decree of publicity in the
media of late (not necessarily those cases involving priests but child
molestation in general) makes it imperative that there be comprehesive
planning and specialized strategy for handling all such occurances among
the clergy. There is simply too much at stake for the Church . . . its
leaders, its clergy and its faithful . . . not to attempt to provide the
best posssible response to the overall crisis.
In their developmental stages these crises are so fluid and move so swiftly
that it is impossible to contrive on-the-spot plans and strategies which
will adequately anticipate most if not all of the adverse developments
and complex considerations that arise. It is equally difficult to attempt
to implement a plan put together by an unknown author. Frankly, when faced
by these crises for the first time very few in authority know what to
do. It often seems to those in charge that everything that might be done
could well go wrong, so the temptation is to do nothing, which is worse
It seems that the best approach which ensures affirmative and aggressive
action is for an Ordinary facing such a crisis to have available to him
the support, assistance, guidance and advice of personnel experienced
in all aspects of the problem. A crisis con- [page
91 begins] trol team, set to work with all aspects of the problem,
cal fill the need in providing immediate and short term solutions.
The long-term solutions to the problems in general, their causes and
possible remedies, can effectively be addressed by a policy and planning
group which can offer definitive consideration to all of the nuances and
subtleties of these situations as well as the very obvious problems which
have been discussed in this document. In short, there are several dimensions
to the problem of multiple instances of sexual misconduct by Catholic
clergy the most offensive type being molestation of children: the individual
cases and the effects on clergy, victims, their families and the local
church; the image of the Catholic clergy projected throughout the country
and the world as a result of these cases; the determination of causes
such as improper seminary screening etc.; the true clinical nature of
certain of the actions, especially pedophilia. All of these dimensions
demand a concentrated degree of attention by the Church for its own good
in the short term and for the sake of its role in the wider society in
the long term.
Those who drafted this document as well as those who have contributed
to its content....all those whose thoughts are represented herein...have
been directly involved, with various degrees of intensity, in each aspect
of these problems. It is from this vantage point that this document is
The questions and considerations should provide not the answers to the
problem but a source of valuable information for the Ordinaries of the
country. This work has been undertaken in the hope of [page
92 begins] contributing in some way to a solution in dealing with
probably the single most serious and far reaching problem facing our Church
Respectfully submitted by
Rev. Michael Peterson, M.D.
Mr. F. Ray Mouton, J.D., Esq.
Rev. Thomas P. Doyle, O.P., J.C.D.