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Lead Bishop Calls For Mandatory Policy to Report Sex Abuse to Police

On the eve of one of the most important meetings in the history of the Roman Catholic Church, correspondent Ed Bradley reports that church leaders knew everything they needed to know about pedophilia in the priesthood nearly two decades ago. In the wake of the first nationally known pedophilia scandal in America, the Vatican ordered an investigation. A top church lawyer submitted a report to the Vatican ambassador calling for sweeping changes in church procedures on sex abuse, but in the end nothing changed. Also in the broadcast, Bishop Wilton Gregory, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in his most wide-ranging interview to date, tells Bradley that allegations of sex abuse by priests should be reported immediately to the police. Gregory adds, "What we're looking for is a clear, forthright, obligatory procedure that every diocese must live with and abide by." The special hour-long report will be broadcast on 60 MINUTES II Wednesday, June 12 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

In the first segment of the broadcast, Bradley revisits the case of the notorious pedophile, Father Gilbert Gauthe in Vermillion Parish, Louisiana. Gauthe's criminal assaults on scores -- possibly hundreds -- of children gave rise to the first major lawsuit ever filed against the church hierarchy for allowing a known pedophile to abuse children. Bradley's report moves on to Cleveland, Ohio, to chronicle aggressive church legal tactics against victims of sexual abuse who have taken their cases public. In the final segment, Bradley highlights a Cleveland case which gave rise to a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO) lawsuit, charging the church with a "pattern of corrupt behavior." Finally, Bradley has a candid conversation with Gregory, who will chair the Dallas meeting on sexual abuse in the church to be held June 13-15 in Dallas. The resulting hour raises new questions about the sex scandals that, in the minds of many Catholics, have robbed the church of its spiritual and moral authority.

In 1984, Gauthe was the first pedophile priest brought to trial in the United States, but Bradley reports that Gauthe's superiors had been covering up his crimes for at least 10 years. After Gauthe molested his first victims in Broussard, La., the presiding bishop told him to confess his sins and never mentioned it again. Gauthe was moved to Abbeville, La., where he continued to sexually abuse children. Even after his superiors there found out about the abuse, Gauthe was appointed chaplain for the Boy Scouts.

For the next five years, none of Gauthe's altar boys talked about what was happening to them. But even after one boy finally stepped forward and told his father about the abuse, church officials said Gauthe had to stay in the parish because they didn't have a replacement. "I called and cussed and told [the monsignor], 'You either get him out of here or someone's gonna kill the son-of-a-b---- and it might be me,'" remembers Wayne Sagrera -- three of his four sons were molested by Gauthe. '[Another monsignor] proceeded to tell me a story that, 'when [Gauthe] was first transferred here to my rectory I originally had him sleeping downstairs...I moved him to an upstairs bedroom because it was harder for kids to climb in and out of the window.'"

By this time, the Vatican Embassy was growing increasingly concerned about the news of sexual abuse in Louisiana. In 1984, the case was assigned to Tom Doyle, one of the Embassy's canon lawyers. After Doyle sent a series of reports to Washington, detailing the problem in Louisiana, Pope John Paul II assigned Cleveland Bishop A.J. Quinn to investigate the unfolding scandal in Louisiana and advise the church what to do about it. "[Quinn] seemed to be supportive at the time," says Doyle. "They had a press conference in 1985. At this big meeting they said, 'We're gonna establish a committee to study this.' I asked one of my contacts in the hierarchy who was on this committee and he said, 'There is no committee. It's window dressing.'"

Bradley's report looks at what happened to two women in Cleveland who were raped by priests when they were little girls. Father Martin Louis raped Stacie White and admitted in therapy to molesting as many as 90 others. Like many others, Louis used religious faith as a shield for his crime. White recalls, "...Sometimes he'd cover my mouth where I couldn't say things and he would just say, 'God knows about this. It's okay, you know I'm a part of God."

When the Whites sued, the church filed a motion alleging that Stacie's parents were partly responsible for allowing their daughter to be raped. "I think, to be very honest, that it was a defense that at the time seemed appropriate," says Santiago Feliciano, who then directed the Diocesan legal office. Feliciano, who resigned two years ago, tells Bradley, "The church was not as supportive as I judge it should have been to victims and their families." He adds that the Cleveland Diocese was concerned primarily with preserving the church's assets in lawsuits filed by sexual abuse victims. "They didn't really balance it out with how they traumatized families and individuals themselves," Feliciano says.

Utilizing a statute that was created to fight the Mafia, attorney Jay Milano has filed a RICO suit against the Cleveland Diocese. "If you take away the collars, the churches, the cathedrals, this is organized crime," says Milano. "It's an enormous organization. The people of that organization, the bosses, the elites, find out that their employees are raping kids. So what do they do? When an allegation comes in, they pat the people on the shoulder and say, 'Don't worry we'll take care of it 'cause after all we are the good people,' or they pull evidence out of files, or they move the rapist from one place to another where there's fresh kids. That's organized crime. That's racketeering. They're covering up crimes to protect themselves. People who do that ought to go to jail."

As for allegations of sex abuse by priests, Bishop Wilton Gregory tells Bradley he hopes the bishops will agree "that information has to go, first of all, to the civil authorities," says Gregory. "Molestation of children is a crime. It's also a sin, but it's a crime first of all."

Bradley concludes his report by saying, "The hard fact is that nearly two decades have passed since the Catholic Church learned everything it need to know about priests who molest children, and it has yet to come up with a way to stop them."

Jeff Fager is the executive producer of 60 MINUTES II and David Gelber and Helen Malmgren are the producers of this hour.