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Newspaper: Bishops Warned Of Priest-Molester Problems In 1985

November 16, 1987

CLEVELAND (AP) _ Roman Catholic bishops as recently as 1985 considered forming a ″crisis control team″ to offer immediate assistance to any diocese with a priest accused of molesting a child, according to a published report.

A confidential report prepared for the bishops two years ago estimated the church through 1995 could face legal claims in excess of $1 billion from lawsuits aimed at priests accused of such crimes.

The report, according to Sunday’s editions of The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, was intended to advise bishops and top church officials about what to do after discovering deviant sexual behavior of a priest and outlined steps to take when confronted with accusations that a priest had molested children.

Church officials said the bishops never formally adopted the report.

The report was written by the late Rev. Michael Peterson, a psychiatrist and president of the St. Luke Institute near Washington; the Rev. Thomas P. Doyle, the secretary for the pope’s representative in Washington; and by New Orleans lawyer F. Ray Mouton, who was representing a diocese in suits filed by parents of boys allegedly molested by a priest.

The report found the problems so severe that the authors suggested forming a crisis control team, The Plain Dealer reported.

Archbishop John L. May of St. Louis, president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the report was not an official document of the conference but was good advice for the bishops.

″Many dioceses have set a policy,″ he said. ″Each bishop does his best as he sees fit.″

The bishops at their regular conference this week in Washington, D.C., will discuss the issue of child molesting by priests, May said.

The Plain Dealer in July reported three alleged cases of child molesting involving priests of the Cleveland Catholic Diocese since 1981.

Bishops were told to report cases to authorities. Failure to follow state laws and trying to cover up child-molestation cases could result in criminal neglect charges against church officials and higher awards in subsequent civil suits, the report said.

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