The Manual was not commissioned by nor assigned by
anyone in any position, official or otherwise. It was an entirely
private venture, undertaken by the above three, as a response to
what they believed was quickly developing into a very serious problem
for the Catholic Church. The case of Fr. Gilbert Gauthe of Lafayette
LA had become a public issue by the late fall of 1984. Fr. Gauthe
was facing serious criminal charges and the diocese hired Mr. Mouton
to act as his defense. A civil suit had already been initiated by
one of the families (Glen and Faye Gastal) whose son had been abused
by Gauthe. The idea for some sort of instrument about how to deal
with cases of priest-pedophilia first came into being in Jan. 1985
at a meeting between myself, F. Ray Mouton and Fr. Mike Peterson.
Mouton was in Washington to meet with Fr. Peterson about the possibility
of sending Fr. Gilbert Gauthe to St. Luke Institute for evaluation
and possible treatment. Peterson was founder and director of St.
Luke Institute, a health care facility for priests and religious.
I had put Peterson and Mouton in touch with each other. I had never
met Mouton but Peterson was a friend and collaborator. I was, at
the time, canonist at the Vatican embassy and charged with monitoring
the correspondence on the Gauthe case.
Shortly after the new year (1985) Fr. Peterson informed me that
Mr. Mouton planned a visit to Washington to discuss the situation
of Fr. Gauthe. The day after Mouton arrived, Fr. Peterson called
and stated that it was urgent that Mouton meet and speak with me.
We decided to have the meeting at the Dominican House of Studies
rather than at the Nunciature.
Mouton indicated that there were several other priests in Lafayette
who had been involved in sexual abuse of children and that the Diocese
was covering them up and thus hurting his chances of a decent defense
for Gauthe. He had hoped to reach a plea bargain for Gauthe which
would enable him to be hospitalized or otherwise confined to a secure
facility where he would receive treatment for his problem. This
discovery of the other priests would make this plan risky if not
unworkable in light of the fact that the District Attorney, Nathan
Stansbury, would not be able to treat the case lightly. In the course
of our conversation, Peterson indicated that he knew from confidential
sources that there were many other priests around the country who
had sexually abused children.
I informed Archbishop Laghi of the gravity of the situation. Fr.
Peterson spoke with Archbishop Laghi a few days later. The archbishop
then called Archbishop Hannan of New Orleans and informed him that
there would be a meeting in the Washington area at which Bishop
Frey, Archbishop Hannan, their lawyers, Fr. Peterson and I would
be present. The purpose of the meeting was to attempt to clarify
the issues especially those of the other priests. The meeting was
held on Feb. 8 in a hotel in Arlington. Present were Hannan, Frey,
Alex Larroque, Bob Wright and Thomas Reyer as well as Fr. Peterson
Subsequent to the meeting, and after conversations with Mouton
and Peterson, I suggested to Archbishop Laghi that a bishop be delegated
to go to Lafayette to assist in managing the crisis. I selected
Bishop A.J. Quinn, auxiliary of Cleveland because of his legal background.
Archbishop Laghi agreed with my suggestion and the appropriate communications
were had with the Holy See to secure the appointment.
The three of us were of the opinion that now that the Gauthe case
had become public and received so much publicity from coast to coast,
that the entire issue would no longer be able to be contained by
Church leaders. I was also aware of other cases of sexual abuse
that had quickly become public throughout the country.
Also, for the first time, a family was starting a civil suit against
a diocese (Gastal v. Lafayette) for failure to take proper precautions
when warned about Gauthe. When the criminal suit was filed, the
district attorney in the area also brought criminal charges. Fr.
Gauthe had in fact been reported to the bishop several times since
1972 and before long, it was discovered that he had abused scores
of young children. All were young boys with one exception. In the
end, he pleaded guilty to 39 counts and was sentenced to twenty
years in prison.
We decided on our own, to try and write something to give to the
bishops to assist them in dealing with cases that we predicted would
start to appear with increasing regularity. We discussed various
approaches with different people including several bishops who were
receptive to the idea.
We had several conversations with Bishop Quinn. Bishop Quinn suggested
that whatever was composed be done in such a format that it be based
on a set of questions that would respond to as many different angles
and aspects of the issue as could be conceived of. Within a short
time we had decided to collect information and put together a manual
or book that would be set up in a question and answer format. The
full edition would also contain copies of several medical articles
about pedophilia. Most of these were taken from medical journals
and several were authored by Dr. Fred Berlin of the Johns Hopkins
University Hospital Sexual Disorders Clinic.
Along with the manual, we also proposed that the NCCB sponsor
a committee (or project) that would supervise detailed research
into the various areas of the problem: civil and criminal law, insurance,
canon law, medical, pastoral. The research would be made available
to the bishops in order to assist in making enlightened decisions
about the problem. The third part of the proposal involved a crisis
intervention team which would consist of legal, medical and canonical/pastoral
resource persons who would be available to any bishop who requested
their services in assisting in dealing with specific cases.
A key aspect of the manual and proposal included a method of uniform
case management or at least case following. Within a few months
after the Gauthe case, i.e., by the middle of 1985, there were several
civil court actions involving priests and dioceses. Over the years
since then there have been hundreds. There has been no uniform case
management or following by any Church agency. Hence there has been
no way of determining the development of civil law jurisprudence,
of tracking the nature and amount of settlements, of studying legal
strategies etc. On the negative side, the lack of case following
has given rise to rumor and innuendo about the monies spent, judgments
of courts, numbers of perpetrators, dioceses involved etc.