(1) Interview with Parents
My first suggestion is that the parent(s) be asked to see one Chancery
official immediately and for the official to be a compassionate, understanding,
sympathetic individual who (hopefully) has had some experience in
interviewing disturbed parents. Such an individual can without "grilling"
the parents get a good feeling for the veracity of the accusation
against the cleric. I would not suggest that the child be interviewed
immediately as the first step and generally such interviews with potentially
molested children should be done only by mental health professionals
who are very familiar with the presentation of the disease in different
age groups of children.
(2) Interview with Cleric
If the appointed Chancery official feels that there is any possible
substance to the accusation of the parent, the Ordinary (and I would
exclude personally any Auxiliary Bishops or other Chancery officials),
if feasible, should IMMEDIATELY ask the priest to come to see him
within a few hours. The Ordinary should make known to the cleric that
the accusation has been made against him and that the Diocese will
do everything to be helpENARIOS
Y-Experience has showful to the cleric. Unfortunately truth, guilt,
innocence, or procedure are not the issues that we have the leisure
to entertain on behalf of the clerics in this point in time in 1985.
In general, the adage that "where there is smoke there is fire" is
almost always true. I am not saying that it is impossible for a false
accusation to be made; I am saying that in general the "tip of the
iceberg" is being exposed with a single accusation and that the cleric
will generally need some kin4 of professional and legal help in a
very short period of time.
(3) Immediate Action of the Ordinary
If the cleric admits to any kind of sexual misconduct, the Ordinary
should "reward" him with his support and reinforce the important and
"sacred relationship" which we believe exists between the Ordinary
a~xd his clerics.
If the cleric does not admit to any type of sexual misconduct to his
Ordinary it is my suggestion that the Ordinary tell him of his obligation
to support and try to help him. However, he should remind him of the
"spiritual bond" and other aspects of the relationship of Ordinary
and cleric that we believe exist in grace and exist in Canon Law
*** IT IS MY PERSONAL OPINION that in either case, the Ordinary, if
convinced initially by his "trusted" Chancery interviewer of the parent(s)
that the allegation has any possible merit or truth, should suspend
immediately the cleric. This may be done without a trial and by means
of an extra judicial decree (Canon 1342).
The purpose of this "temporary suspension" is to indicate clearly
that the Ordinary in his relationship with his cleric believes that
an investigation of the accusations are warranted and that the cleric
must have a psychiatric evaluation in the near future. This is a form
of "protection" for the Ordinary and the Diocese. For example, if
the Ordinary is called to the witness stand and asked what he did
when he learned of the sexual allegation against that eight year old
boy made by a responsible parent, the Ordinary may point to the procedure
in the Code of Canon Law and state that he did the first responsible
action that the Code allows. Namely, he formally informed the cleric
that he could not function as his representative in the diocesan assignment
until an investigation revealed his guilt or innocence; this is done
to protect the Diocese and to protect the general public, especially
the family or families that had the courage to come forward and inform
the Ordinary of the possible misconduct.
I would next suggest that the cleric be moved IMMEDIATELY from the
parish rectory and into a retreat house, monastery. Bisbop s residence
and not allowed to function in any priestly capacity in that domicile
until the next steps of investigation, legal inquiry With a civil
attorney, and
*** See Canonical Revision, pp. 61-62, 7-28-86. more information is
obtained concerning the allegations in an appropriate fashion.
The cleric should be reassured that because suspension and moving
to a "safer place" is being demanded of him immediately that this
does not indicate in any fashion that the Ordinary believes he is
"guilty". It is simply a legal, social and psychiatric fact that some
action must be taken immediately which indicates to the families,
legal authorities, reporting agencies, and future litigating attorneys
that the Ordinary takes such accusations with great seriousness.
The cleric should be reassured further that legal consultation with
an attorney by the Ordinary will be done immediately and the attorney
will be notified of those two actions as part of a "standard policy"
of the Diocese.
Because the reality of the accusations are so frequently true, the
Ordinary should be concerned about suicide and other impulsive self
destructive behavior. It is my suggestion that he be moved to a place
where a friend could remain with him on a temporary basis until other
actions are taken. The "friend" should be sworn to confidentiality
so that defamation of character of the accused cleric coue that the Bishop s files or othld never
be claimed against the Ordinary by the cleric. Further, the conversation
between the Ordinary and the cleric should be immediately documented
by the Ordinary in the format of a Memorandum and the suspension should
be typed and handed to the cleric as outlined in the Code.LEGAL ADVICE
INTRODUCTION: It is again my personal suggestion that each Ordinary
in the coming months consider carefully the development of a Diocesan
Internal Policy concerning cleric personnel files and their contents,
the procedure to be followed uniformly when sexual accusations are
made against clerics in that Diocese, clear legal opinion documented
concerning the reporting 1 in your respective States and how the reporting
is to be done with reference to a cleric, your guidelines concerning
interviewing parents and children, your guidelines concerning evaluation
of the cleric, your guidelines concerning suspension, your guidelines
concerning treatment programs and other pertinent policies that will
be followed when the next unforseen accusation is made against a cleric.
It has been my experience that when such policies are determined and
written that better treatment of the families, clerics, and the dioceses
themselves have better outcomes.
Frequently, it is common practice for dioceses to have one or more
legal firms represent them in different matters. However, ignorance
among attorneys be as great in this very specialized field of sexual
abuse law as it is am mental health professionals who do not deal
with it everyday.
It is my strong personal opinion that you inquire immediately of your
legal firm for the name of a CRIMINAL TRIAL ATTORNEY who is either
in that same legal firm or another firm who is familiar with child
sexual abuse laws in your State. In dioceses in the U.S. which are
very small or who have very infrequent problems in this area, it may
be necessary to request immediate legal advice from the USCC or the
Papal Pro Nuncio. There are a number of trial lawyers in the U.S.
who have handled many of these complex cases who can immediately be
of help to any attorney who is willing to listen to the

I cannot emphasize strongly enough the importance of being confident
that the attorney you turn to immediately as the Ordinary will give
you the most current and correct and prudent advice on your behalf
and that of the cleric at least in the beginning. It may be necessary,
as your attorney will inform you, that if criminal proceedings are
initiated against the cleric himself that a separate attorney should
be sought for the cleric so that there can be no conflict of interest
with the attorney who is representing the diocesan entity.
One of the most difficult concepts for all of us to understand at
this time is that reporting laws concerning physical, psychological
and sexual abuse of children are changing rapidly in most states and
that clerics are NEVER an exception to the reporting laws. Our dependence
in the past on Roman Catholic judges and attorneys protecting the
Dioceses and clerics is GONE.
You should immediately have a trial attorney write for you personally
the reporting laws in your State concerning sexual abuse of children.
You will find, almost without exception, that very few persons are
ever exempt from reporting SUSPECTED CHILD ABUSE. In the case of diocesan
agencies, Catholic Charities routinely in most jurisdictions have
attorneys that they work with everyday with respect to reporting suspected
physical or sexual child abuse to the appropriate agency. If the perpetrator
or accused person is a cleric, this means nothing in the law in almost
all jurisdictions.
which I have coined means that there are different ways in which the
Diocese or the diocesan agency (including the Ordinary himself) can
make the report and fulfill the law. Failure to report the child abuse
suspicion by a cleric by the Dive on future insurance premiums?ocese is probably the most common
and greatest vulnerability in the long term with respect to civil
suit against the Diocese and Ordinary in the future.
I DON'T KNOW: However, it is my personal experience again that 'seasoned
trial attorneys will give you advice instantly and competently and
I would STRONGLY suggest that you follow their advice to the letter
for your protection and that of the cleric.
It would be my suggestion that the attorney meet with the cleric IMMEDIATELY
following the meeting the cleric has with his Ordinary. Such a meeting
is PRIVILEGED and he may learn from the cleric much more factual information
that will be helpful within 24 hours concerning decisions of evaluation
of the cleric, how and when to report to the state agency or local
law enforcement agency, etc. The attorney may not, however, be able
to reveal to you any of the information gained during that PRIVILEGED
interview with the accused cleric, but his advice may be stronger
and give you a better time line or time frame.
Certainly the attorney should be asked if he has a psychologist or
psychiatrist who is familiar with child abuse cases and interviewing
the victims. Such a person should be sought rather quickly so that
the family will be reassured that the Diocese is beginning to take
action on the accusation and that it is on behalf of the child. The
reporting laws and procedures, however, may make this not feasible
and this is the reason why the attorney s advice should be sought
It has been our experience that following an interview with a trial
attorney of the cleric, referral for evaluation is generally the next
step and is almos always looked on favorably by the state or local
agencies as a positive step by the Diocese to help the cleric as well
as responding positively to the family cry for help in the identifying
of the cleric as a potential child molester.I AM NOT AN ATTORNEY:
This is obvious to you all. I would only implore that you rather quickly
investigate and have a written opinion by a trial attorney for you
personally on behalf of your Diocese about reporting laws for diocesan
school teachers, janitors, employees in schools, other clerics (outside
of the Seal of Confession) who "counsel" in their rectories or give
advice to Principals of their schools.
You might also remind the civil attorney that "transitional deacons"
and "permanent deacons" are now considered in the new Code as clerics
and that 'legal responsibility for these individuals is something
that will inevitably have to be dealt with at some time time in the
You will note in the "Confidential Crisis Proposal" that there is
a rather complete canonical treatment of these issues and you might
find that section rather interesting reading when you have a free
moment. There is also a ver interesting civil law section written
by one attorney who has had a very "famous" cleric recently indicted
for pedophilia and he asks many questions that your civil attorney
may be interested in. The case law in this area, as you may already
know, is not very well developed, but the legal article in the last
section of this document called "Clergy Malpractice" promises us all
that they are seeing in particular the Roman Catholic Church in the
U.S. as a potential "deep pocket" now that the trial lawyers have
begun to exhaust medical malpractice. I am sure you have all seen
the article, but it sent "shivers" down my spine since I have lived
personally through the development of case law in medical malpractice
and have watched it in some instances destroy fine physicians. I pray
daily that we will not be treated is such a fashion by our legal system
in the future, but the article would imply otherwise.