Notes on the Peterson Guidelines

The package assembled by Rev. Michael R. Peterson included an important 22-page essay by Peterson, 12 articles and other documents on pedophilia and its treatment, 2 articles on "clerical malpractice," and the so-called Manual written by Peterson, Rev. Thomas Doyle, and attorney F. Ray Mouton. Peterson refers to the package as his "guidelines," and we have used the word as our title, but the two copies of the package that we have on file lack a title page.

The Guidelines package is especially significant because Peterson sent it to every bishop in the United States on December 9, 1985. Auxiliary bishops were not included in the distribution. Our copy is from the chancery archive of the Dallas diocese, and bears the curia stamp, indicating that it was received on December 27, 1985. Later updates to the package, sent to the bishops on August 27, 1986, were incorporated by the Dallas diocese into their copy, indicating that the Guidelines were not filed away and forgotten.

In one of the more peculiar footnotes to the Catholic crisis, the dissemination of this package to the bishops was funded in part by Cardinal Bernard Law. "Doyle turned to Cardinal Law to pay a former parishioner in Chicago who had typed the document, and to offset the costs for three hundred photocopies. Law sent $1000." (Jason Berry, Vows of Silence, p. 49) For Law's role in the composition of the Manual, see also Doyle's Short History of "The Manual."

Hence by Christmas 1985, all the U.S. bishops had received a detailed description of the sexual abuse crisis and extensive documentation of the current medical thinking on the problem and its treatment. Peterson's own contribution to the package is sometimes called an "executive summary" to the Manual, but the term is a misnomer. Peterson begins his 22-page essay with a letter to the bishops and a brief "executive summary" describing the entire Guidelines package. Peterson's essay is not a summary of the Manual but his own "professional and personal remarks," in which the founder and president of St. Luke's Institute describes priests' behavior, their victims, and the relation between priests' sexual behavior and their other problems.

Our Web version of the Guidelines was scanned from the Dallas diocese's copy, a xerox of which is preserved in the archive donated to by Dallas attorney Sylvia Demarest. We have converted the portion written by Peterson into a Web page for easy access. We have also PDFed that portion of the Guidelines package so that our readers can consult the original.



Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.