Key point 10-04. Churches can reduce the risk of liability based on negligent selection for the sexual molestation of minors by adopting risk management policies and procedures.
A Missouri court ruled that a church was not liable for failing to inform parents that large amounts of child pornography was found on the pastor's laptop computer. A minor female (the "victim") was born in 2001. She and her parents (the "Doe Family") joined a Catholic church in the summer of 2009. A priest (the "defendant") became the pastor of the church at about the same time. In December 2010, a computer technician who worked for the church was asked to look at the priest's laptop because it was running slow. The technician determined that the hard drive was full, and in the process of deleting files, saw pictures of young girls stored on the hard drive with numbers assigned, indicating the pictures had been taken by a camera. The technician reported his discovery to the church's office manager, and thereafter brought the laptop to the church office to meet with a church deacon. The technician assisted the deacon in navigating to one particular picture he had found of a young girl with her pants pulled down. The deacon immediately contacted an official of the Diocese. On December 16, 2010, the deacon delivered the laptop to the official who asked the Diocese's Director of Management Information Systems to look at the laptop. On December 17, 2010, this person copied photographs she found on the laptop to a flash drive. On the same day, she and her supervisor prepared a memorandum to the Diocese regarding their findings and attached copies of some of the images found on the laptop. On the same day, the bishop of the Diocese contacted its outside legal counsel for an opinion about whether the images found on the priest's laptop constituted child pornography. A few days later, outside legal counsel advised the bishop that in his legal opinion, the images on the priest's laptop were not child pornography.