The Idaho Statesman reports that an Idaho priest has been accused of sexual misconduct stemming from his assignment at an Idaho Falls church in 1981. The allegations involve a man who was under 18 at the time. A similar claim was apparently made against the priest in 2005, resulting in his treatment out of state in 2006.
Idaho law prohibits sexual contact with a minor. Our law includes two felony charges covering such matters – lewd and lascivious acts with a minor under 16, and sexual battery of a minor 16 or 17. Both charges frequently carry prison sentences, so the notion that sending someone out of state for treatment would "solve" the problem misses the mark. The Statesman report deals with allegations that have not been proven, and as such, Rev. William Gould is entitled to the full protection of the law, including the presumption of innocence.
More problematic for the church is the bad press and the potential lawsuits which might flow from the reported sexual misconduct. If church officials had knowledge of the 2005 allegations, it is almost impossible to imagine that they gave Rev. Gould the "return to work, problems solved" light. Then again, we don’t know what the circumstances were that resulted in that "treatment." Maybe there was no touching at all, and their efforts were directed at restoring the priest to his position of trust, entirely in good faith. And their knowledge of Gould’s problems in 2005 does not necessarily mean they had knowledge in 1981 (when the "new" allegations are reported to have occurred).
Regardless – it doesn’t look right. And it is not right. Priests, pastors, bishops and other religious leaders are called to a level of scrutiny that they must either withstand or be replaced. It is not possible for any church to simply "shuffle" the problem away to some other parish. As the Pope is reported to have proclaimed today, the problems in the Catholic church are the result of insiders, not some huge conspiracy from outside. For the Church – it is a matter of "purification" according to the Pope. For victims of clerical sexual abuse, the options include both criminal and civil cases.