"Beginning around 1985, recognizing that he had some issues with both alcohol and pertaining to his sexuality, he voluntarily and without any prodding or initiation from the church sought psychiatric treatment," Bernstein said yesterday.
Kempisty said the Baltimore Archdiocese did not pay for Spillane's treatment and was not aware of it until 1992.
Spillane took the job of executive director of the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions in 1986 - partly because it was an administrative job that did not put him near children, Bernstein said. The FDLC advises the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and American dioceses on worship and liturgical issues.
The Washington Post published details of Spillane's past in yesterday's editions, reporting that he had admitted to molesting six youths while working earlier in parishes of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
In early 1992, church officials sent letters to the FDLC and the Washington Archdiocese informing them of Spillane's admissions, Kempisty said.
Two FDLC board members said yesterday that they were unaware of the abuse until recently, but that it should not have disqualified Spillane from his job.
"I can't even imagine what his victims must have gone through, but I've also seen what Father Spillane has done, and he's done a remarkable job," said the Rev. John H. Burton, chairman of the FDLC board. In 1992, he said, officials at FDLC "agreed Father Spillane would continue because he was not doing ministry as such. His post was purely administrative, and there was no contact with children."
Spillane announced in January that he would step down from his post at the FDLC by the end of the year. Last week, he asked the board to make his resignation effective immediately, which it plans to do soon, Burton said.
The leader of a support network for people abused by priests said the FDLC should not have kept Spillane on its staff after it learned of his admissions.
"It shows a terrible naivete, at best, to suggest that any sort of reassignment out of parish ministry keeps children safe," said David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. He also said the Baltimore Archdiocese should have reported Spillane's abuse to authorities.
"They also should have gone to every parish he served in and said, `This man has admitted to molesting children,' and asked parents to talk to their children about it," Clohessy said.
The archdiocese defended its actions yesterday as appropriate under the laws at the time. And a letter dated Jan. 20, 1992, from an archdiocesan lawyer to the attorney for the victim who came forward in 1991 indicates that the church acted quickly in the matter.
The letter states that the archdiocesan lawyer first spoke with the victim's lawyer Dec. 27, 1991. Top church officials then met with Spillane on Jan. 3, 1992. The church revoked his priestly faculties that same day, according to the letter.
The letter also said, "While the Archdiocese does not believe that it has a reporting duty under the Maryland child abuse reporting statute when the victim is now over age 18, we in no way discourage your client from reporting independently, if he so chooses."
Sun staff writer John Rivera and staff researcher Paul McCardell contributed to this article.