Fr. Tom Doyle, a lone voice, speaks:


I would like to thank Fr. Tom Doyle for allowing me to publish his more recent remarks in strong support of victims of clergy sexual abuse by the Catholic clergy. He is the strongest advocate for the victims of clergy sexual abuse among the ordained Catholic clergy throughout the universal Catholic Church community. He maintains a consistent focus on clerical abuse and rebukes his friends as well as adversaries.  

A Dominican priest with a doctorate in canon law and five separate master’s degrees, Rev. Thomas Patrick Doyle, O.P. sacrificed a rising career at the Vatican Embassy to become an outspoken advocate for church abuse victims. Since 1984, when he became involved with the issue of sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy while serving at the Embassy, he has become an expert in the canonical and pastoral dimensions of this problem—working directly with victims, their families, accused priests, bishops, and other high-ranking Church officials. Doyle has interviewed 2,000 victims of clerical sexual abuse in the U.S. alone, and has been the only priest to testify in court in over 200 cases as to the legal liability of the Church. He has developed policies and procedures for dealing with cases of sexual abuse by the clergy for dioceses and religious orders in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. As an expert in this area, he has delivered lectures and seminars for clergy and lay groups throughout the U.S. In 1989 he appeared as an expert witness before the legislature of the State of Pennsylvania concerning that State’s child protective legislation. As an Air Force major stationed in Germany, and who also recently served as a military chaplain in Iraq, he holds 16 military awards and decorations for distinguished service. He currently serves as a consultant/court expert in clerical abuse cases throughout the U.S., Canada, Ireland, Israel and the United Kingdom.

When The Voice of the Faithful honored Doyle with their first Priest of Integrity Award in 2002, David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), called Doyle “an absolute hero.” In recognition of his advocacy work for the victims of clerical sexual abuse, he has also received the Cavallo Award for Moral Courage (1992) and the Isaac Hecker Award from the Paulist Fathers (2003). In June of 2003 Doyle was also issued an official commendation from the Dominican Fathers for his “prophetic work in drawing attention to clergy sexual abuse and for advocating the rights of victims and abusers.”

Doyle is the author of several previous books including Meeting the Problem of Sexual Abuse Among the Clergy in a Responsible Way with Michael Peterson, M.D. and F. Ray Mouton (St. Luke Institute, 1985).  Doyle lives in Vienna, VA.

In a recent speeches and articles, Fr Tom Doyle has taken positions of both criticism of some, even his friends, and praise of others, including the Irish Prime Minister’s remarks. Below are some examples:

In speaking of his friends in the reform movement whom he felt did not showcase the sexual abuse of children by clergy more forcefully and publicly at a national conference, he remarked:“It is sure evidence that even the well intentioned don’t get it. They don’t get it about the evil nature and scope of this insidious reality that is all too alive and they surely don’t get it about the nature of the institutional Church they want to reform.The phenomenon of sexual abuse of minors and adults by Catholic clergy and nuns is more than the violation of innocent people and the criminal cover-up by the erroneously labeled “leaders” of the institutional Church.It is the mind and soul boggling revelation, over a long period of time, of the reality that there is a very dark side to the Church. It is a revelation that this long nightmare is part of the very fabric of the institution and not an embarrassing and destructive problem that is extraneous to the institution.

It is essential that those caught up in this dark side be affirmed, loved, understood and helped to heal.”

In praising the speech of Ireland’s Prime Minister Edna Kenny, Fr. Tom Doyle stated,

“The Taoiseach’s speech is historic not just for Ireland – it is unprecedented in global terms and it is extremely welcomed.” He went on to state in part of the Prime Minister who stated “… the Cloyne report excavates the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism… the narcissism that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day” :

“They are the words of a man who has risen far above politics and above the mute deference to the hierarchy of the church to speak for the victims of sexual abuse by clergy, for their mothers and fathers and for the countless others who have been betrayed by the church to which they have given unconditional trust and obedience.

This speech is historic for many reasons, one of which is that a senior political figure – a Government leader – has taken the risk of speaking directly and bluntly about a critical problem that plagues many countries.

Yet in no other country has an elected or appointed leader bypassed the often-hypocritical subtleties of political discourse to stand tall in support of not just any class of vulnerable, abused and rejected people, but the victims of the Catholic Church, the largest, most powerful and most deeply entrenched pillar of Irish society.

The Cloyne report has moved beyond the stark exposure of decades of abuse and cover-up, as did the Ryan and Murphy reports and indeed the several grand jury reports in the United States. Cloyne clearly named the Vatican’s response as “unhelpful”.

The Taoiseach went even further and completely rejected the Vatican’s actions and attitude, expressing the Irish people’s “abhorrence of same”.

Strong words, but within the context of what prompted them, they are justified. The report dissolved the erroneous appeal to a pastoral approach as a substitute for treating a crime as a crime and not simply as a sin that can be absolved and forgotten along with the devastating impact of the sin on the victims.

The third explosive, but realistic aspect, of the report was the explicit acknowledgment that the bishops could not be relied upon to follow through with their own guidelines much less Irish law and therefore clear, effective and enforced measures must be taken to see that children are protected whether the church likes it or not.

Enda Kenny’s opening words point to a cause of this overall problem that hits right at the heart of the matter: the profound difference and distance between the heavily narcissistic clerical culture, especially at the level of the Vatican, and the abhorrence in the real world of Irish society and of any civilised society, of the rape and ruination of innocent children by anyone much less the most trusted members of society.

The Vatican and various elements of the hierarchy have flooded the Catholic world with countless words, all carefully nuanced and crafted, to express their regret and to their promise to change.

Kenny no doubt was as fed up with the meaninglessness of words without relevant action as the people of Ireland and every other country plagued by clergy abuse. He bypassed the seemingly endless and often convoluted rhetoric of the Vatican by getting right to the heart of the matter: the culture of arrogant neglect of children and some of key underlying causes. One target is clericalism, the virus that continues to corrupt the church to the point that the people of God are buried in anachronistic monarchism The Taoiseach’s groundbreaking speech buries the destructive myth that the institutional Catholic Church, with its monarchical governing structure, is some sort of superior or exalted political entity with self-created rights to subvert the civic order of any society that calls it to accountability for the behaviour of its privileged class.

Fine Gael chairman Charlie Flanagan framed this in a stark and eye-opening way in his call for the expulsion of the papal nuncio: “… if any foreign government conspired with Irish citizens to break the law here, their ambassadors would be expelled.”

The Taoiseach repeated this sentiment by reminding everyone that Ireland is not Rome, “nor is it industrial-school or Magdalene Ireland where the swish of a soutane smothered conscience and humanity and the swing of a thurible ruled the Irish Catholic world. This is the Republic of Ireland 2011. A Republic of laws, of rights and responsibilities… of proper civic order…where the delinquency and arrogance of a particular version… of a particular kind of morality…will no longer be tolerated or ignored.”

This is much more than a stirring address to the Irish parliament. It is the voice of a long awaited and sorely needed liberation from the chains of a clericalist control that sacrificed the very ones in whose defence Jesus spoke so passionately, for the sake of a kingdom that has tarnished the Body of Christ. This liberation is essential not only in Ireland but in any state or country where the Catholic Church hopes to regain its relevance not as a gilded institution but as a Christian way of life.

The only fitting conclusion is with Enda Kenny’s own words: “… I am making absolutely clear, that when it comes to the protection of the children of this State, the standards of conduct which the church deems appropriate to itself, cannot and will not be applied to the workings of democracy and civil society in this Republic. Not purely, or simply or otherwise. Children first.”

Let’s hear from you. This is not just an article to read. This blog is a conversation that needs to take place between good people and good priests. I invite you to read and participate in this critical discussion.

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17 Responses to Fr. Tom Doyle, a lone voice, speaks:

  1. john e mcgovern says:

    I first came to know OF Tom Doyle from my first reading of Jason Berry’s work “Lead Us Not Into Temptation”. Years later, VOTF Palm Beach (FL) had both Tom and Jason speak at one of its conferences “The Real Costs of the Sexual Abuse Crisis in the Catholic Church.” Everyone should have some direct experience of these two men if for no other reason than to gain insight into the power of commitment. If more people stood up to church authority – including Rome itself – according to the example of these two men we would not be in the situation we now experience.

  2. One can only hope that all D.A.s and state lawmakers will adopt the same stance as Kenny. And that all clergy will share in Father Tom Doyle’s wisdom on this issue.

  3. I believe it was St. Augustine who called the church a “chaste prostitute.” Chaste, that ia holy because it will never lose the holiness orf its Head, Jesus Christ. But “prostitute” because the members of the Body of Christ are, in varying degrees, the “unfaithful spouse.” The church does not just preach conversion; the church is always in need of conversion, and that includes all of us does it not?
    Charles Finnegan OFM

    • drnickmazza says:

      Thank you , Fr Finnegan for your thoughtful reply. God Bless. DrNick

    • Charles Finnegan: Your comments make “sense” IF baptized [read-saturated] with Paul’s gospel of grace rightly divided (2 Timothy 2:15.)
      But I fear they rather tend toward the worldly organization, and not Christ’s Body the church as defined by Paul.

  4. Speaking-Up says:

    Did the Mighty Roman Empire really collapse along with its emperor, kings and pontius pilates? Or did it switch names and become the Holy Roman Empire with its Roman Pontiff, Roman Curia, Papal Nuncios, Universal Magisterium etc. Do canon laws supercede criminal and civil laws? Does the universal institutional church supercede independent states and countries?

    Following are extracts from Fr. Tom Doyle’s recent speeches and articles:

    Fine Gael chairman Charlie Flanagan framed this in a stark and eye-opening way in his call for the expulsion of the papal nuncio: “… if any foreign government conspired with Irish citizens to break the law here, their ambassadors would be expelled.” …..

    The Taoiseach repeated this sentiment by reminding everyone that Ireland is not Rome, “nor is it industrial-school or Magdalene Ireland where the swish of a soutane smothered conscience and humanity and the swing of a thurible ruled the Irish Catholic world. This is the Republic of Ireland 2011. A Republic of laws, of rights and responsibilities… of proper civic order…where the delinquency and arrogance of a particular version… of a particular kind of morality…will no longer be tolerated or ignored.” End of extract.

    Has this dual legal-system been in existence since Constantine or was it after Mussolini created the Vatican State, whereby truant members of the clergy and the religious are protected through fraternal correction and forgiveness while the laity are punished under criminal and civil laws? What would Jesus say to this kind of social justice?

    • Deacon Bill McDonald says:

      It is clear what Jesus would do, when given the choice of defending children or defending the hierarchy. Jesus would be the first one to speak up and defend children of any age. His condemnation of the hierarchy’s continuing defensive comments and actions would be swift. He would publicly silence the Pope and his overly obedient bishops. The least he would do is fire them all immediately. If Jesus allowed them to do a life of penitence, as the pope sentenced Maciel to, they would would all be doing it in a jail cell.

      Mr. Kenny’s quotation of Cardinal Ratzinger at the end of the Prime Minister’s speech reveals exactly what the problem is and where the correction has to take place. The Vatican mindset that canon law is “God’s law” and as such it is not only superior to civil law, but also that the hierarchy is only subject to canon law and somehow exempt from the “Standards of conduct appropriate to civil society, or the workings of a democracy,” is an arrogance that can only be measured in astronomical terms.

      The reality is that canon law is really only the hierarchy’s law. It is law written only with the hierarchy’s approval at the highest level. Canon law is controlled by the curia and the pope.They lie and call it, “the law of the church” which it is not because the people of God have no real influence in its composition.

      What this bishops’ scandal has shown is that the “Standards of conduct appropriate to civil society or the workings of democracy” are in fact far superior to anything coming out of the Vatican. It is quite clear to the laity that the standards of the hierarchy in regards to appropriate conduct with children are nonexistent.

      There used to be a saying, “his thinking is so high in the clouds of heaven, that he is no earthly good.” In the case of the Vatican and the Pope, their thinking is not only no heavenly good, it is no earthly good either. It is the thinking of the Pope and his Curia that is the source of the problem. Only admitting the truth, that this worldwide bishops’ scandal has been caused because Rome has required that “all scandals be kept secret,”
      can the church begin to heal. No one who has followed and studied this scandal for decades can come to any other conclusion.

      This scandal will continue as long as the laity continue to give money to the hierarchy. If the laity stopped giving them money the covering up and the lieing would stop.Those that continue to give money to the hierarchy are like people giving money to alcoholics, only this is perpetuating a clerical habit of using power to abuse children.

    • Did the Mighty Roman Empire really collapse along with its emperor, kings and pontius pilates? Or did it switch names and become the Holy Roman Empire with its Roman Pontiff, Roman Curia, Papal Nuncios, Universal Magisterium etc. Do canon laws supercede criminal and civil laws? Does the universal institutional church supercede independent states and countries?

      Yes! …
      Yes! …
      Yes!…
      That’s what a few of us “right dividers” have been trying to explain to Catholics all along.

      God chose Israel and His gifts [choosing them to be the head over all the nations] are “without repentance” i.e., He will not change His mind. So when the Roman empire tries to take Israel’s place, guess what? It’ll never happen. When Christ returns it will be just as scripture prophesies, He will rule from Jerusalem over the whole world– sitting on David’s throne.

      The “church the Body of Christ” as Paul calls it is not Israel.

  5. Robert Stewart says:

    I admire Tom Doyle, but I think we can all do without his patronizing: “It is sure evidence that even the well intentioned don’t get it. They don’t get it about the evil nature and scope of this insidious reality that is all too alive and they surely don’t get it about the nature of the institutional Church they want to reform.”

    I disagree with his comment. Many, I think, do “get it” and the exodus from the Catholic Church of so many those baptized Catholics indicates that many do “get it”–1 in 3 Americans who were baptized Catholics no longer consider themselves members of the Catholic Church, according to the most recent Pew study regarding this matter. The problem is that that many who stay are not sure what effective action–emphasis on “effective”– can be taken to bring about “reform” of the Church–I personally prefer “renewal” of the Church.

    More solidarity and militancy is what is needed, in my opinion, and that may be what Tom is really calling for, and I would have to agree. Lack of militancy has been my criticism of some Catholic reform groups. We need a movement in the Church analogous to the labor movement in the 1930s, when labor leaders like John L. Lewis and Walter Reuther organized workers by industry (coal, auto, steel, etc) and effectively secured and protected the rights of workers against oppressive captains of industry via support for legislation (especially the Wagner Act) and union solidarity. I see some similar solidarity and militancy taking place recently in Australia and in Austria, where priests and people are challenging the Pope and hierarchy for their numerous failures in providing pastoral leadership and creatively responding to the pastoral needs of the people and their attacks on bishops and priests who act in a pastoral manner–e.g., Bishop Bill Morris in Australia.

  6. Bill McDonald says:

    It is hard to believe a greater personal evil than the sodomizing of a child. That an ordained priest would do it is bad enough to shock anyone. An adult imposing themselves on a child or seducing a teenager is an abuse of power even though it is classified as a sex crime. When any bishop covers up such a crime to allow the perpetrator to abuse others, that bishop has abused his power. When the Vatican officials defend the bishops, it is an abuse of power. It is obvious that this bishops’s scandal is a worldwide phenomenon. To be that extensive can only mean that covering up scandals is a universal requirement that Roman officials have imposed on overly obedient bishops.

    At least the Irish Prime Minister seems to understand the source of this evil system that protects predators who prey on the most vulnerable children.

    The shame of it is that no one in the American government stood up to prosecute the Roman bishops in this country when the scandal broke out all over this country. I now blame the Catholic laity in this country for continuing on as usual with their head in the sand. They don’t even have the courage to stop sending their money to the bishops who have been covering up these crimes against children. The worst of the laity are those that defend the bishops’ secrecy and make excuses for them. Defending the bishops is aiding and abetting criminal behavior against children for Pete’s sake!

    The scale of this criminal activity within the church is intolerable.If the laity will not stand up and speak up for their neighbor’s children, what does that say about their lack of faith, their lack of compassion, their lack of love, and their lack of moral courage?

    There is something very wrong about this picture. This is more than the docility of sheep. This is a laity that is impotent and immoral.
    There are no adequate words to describe my outrage at what my fellow parishoners have allowed to happen- the perpetuation of evil corruption at the highest level of the church.

  7. john e mcgovern says:

    To return to the main point ….. Doyle speaks of “the dark side” of the Church. The Rome issued document “Crimen Solicitationis” is the ultimate example of “the dark side” of Canon Law in its application. There are many points of significance; however, most significant of all is the fact that Crimen dates back to the early 1960’s. Quite simply, the dark side did not commence with Crimen but reached a level of formality with its issuance and set in motion the secrecy factor(s) in dictating and reinforcing the “parallel” system of law(s). Years later, when “mandatory reporters” became the norm in civil law for reporting abuse, the church continued to operate consistent with the norms of “Crimen” which contributed to the silence, the coverups and the sexual crimes that are epitomized in the attacks on children. Indeed, a very dark side!

  8. Gary Mirto says:

    WORDS, WORDS, AND MORE WORDS, FOLLOWED BY SERMONIZING, AND INTERMINABLE PREACHING TO THE CHOIR. NO MONEY, NO ORGANIZATIONAL STRATEGY, A FRAGMENTED COLLECTION OF VARIOUS AND SUNDRY SHOESTRING REFORM GROUPS EACH OFF ON ITS OWN DOG AND PONY SHOW. NO VISIBLE INVOLVEMENT OF ANY ONE UNDER THE AGE OF FIFTY, NO SERIOUS INTELLECTUAL EFFORT TO GET PAST THE TIRESOME AND OUTMODED IDIOM AND CATHARSIS OF CULTURE WAR ARGUMENT. A REFORM CLEARLY IN NEED OF REFORM. AND FOR THIS THE GREAT MIDDLE OF THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC POPULATION IS SUPPOSED TO RISE UP OUT OF THE PEWS AND RUSH INTO BATTLE? LET ME THINK—THE ANSWER IS NO.

    IF THOSE WHO HAVE ASSUMED THE MANTLE OF CHURCH REFORM LEADERSHIP IN THIS COUNTRY WERE IN CHARGE OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION THERE WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ONE.

  9. Speaking-Up says:

    Following is an extract from the link: http://www.mapsofindia.com/personalities/gandhi/civil-disobedience.html

    The Civil Disobedience Movement led by M K Gandhi, in the year 1930 was an important milestone in the history of Indian Nationalism. … The Indians learned how apparently philosophical tenets like non violence and passive resistance could be used to wage political battles. …………………….. While the non cooperation movement was built on the lines of non violence and non cooperation, the essence of The Civil Disobedience Movement was the defying of British laws….

    Clericalism is political in nature, with all the perks of title, status, prestige, wealth and power. Perhaps the Roman Catholic masses need a Gandhi-style movement of non violence and passive resistance against the Roman hierarchy. If Gandhi could defy the mighty British Empire, can we not get Rome’s attention by participating in a global catholic-disobedience movement of not ‘paying, praying or obeying’. We need not abandon our personal relationship with God or our prayer-life during this period and there is a possibility that home-churches may begin to flourish.

    Or perhaps we need a public-outcry along the lines of
    Martin Luther and his ‘Ninety-Five Theses’. The numerous social-media outlets give us a global-voice that the Roman Church may find difficult to ignore. At present, we can only get their attention when we resort to civil and criminal law-suits and public-scandals.

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