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 prob lem in the secular
press as well as the National Catholic Reporter.
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
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-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 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.
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.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 Bishops.
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
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.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 suitabi lity.
*Directors of Seminaries and/or other similar Religious Houses of
formation. *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 small Dioceses.
*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.
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
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 if requested.
2. Arrange for and/or conduct evaluation of person accused and process
person for treatment at appropriate facility.
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
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.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 counsel.
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 of trials.
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 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.
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.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 be discovered
4. In the confidential discussions mentioned hereinabove, it was the
consensus that this work might best be performed by an Ad Hocu 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.
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
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 than wrong.
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- trol team, set to work
with all aspects of the problem, cal fill the need in roviding 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 written.
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 contributing
in some way to a solution in dealing with probably the single most
serious and far reaching problem facing our Church today.
Respectfully submitted by
Rev. Michael Peterson, M.D.
Mr. F. Ray Mouton, J.D., Esq.
Rev. Thomas P. Doyle, O.P., J.C.D.
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The Archives and the Secret Archives
Required by Canon Law
Thomas Doyle, O.P., J.C.D.
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