Secrecy Called Vatican Mind-Set

By Kathleen A. Shaw
Telegram & Gazette [Worcester MA]
Downloaded August 12, 2003

Although a 1962 Vatican document detailing how certain sexual abuse allegations are to be handled shows the mind-set of secrecy of the Catholic hierarchy, it may not be as crucial as some people want to believe, according to the Rev. Thomas P. Doyle.

"The Vatican document did not cause the clandestine mode of dealing with clergy sex abuse," he said.

Rev. Doyle, now an Air Force chaplain in Germany, is the canon lawyer who wrote one of the original reports in the 1980s alerting American bishops that they had a problem with clergy sexual abuse and needed to take action.

His report was initially disregarded and was not acted on by the bishops. He has since been speaking out for the rights of clergy sexual abuse victims.

Construing the document as "a substitute for civil law action" or as a way to hide clergy who commit sex crimes may be "stretching a bit too far," he said.

Rev. Doyle said that if it turned out "the document actually has been the foundation of a continuous policy to cover clergy crimes at all costs, then we have quite another issue.

"There are too many authenticated reports of victims having been seriously intimidated into silence by church authorities to assert that such intimidation is the exception and not the norm.

"If this document has been used as a justification for this intimidation, then we possibly have what some of the more critical commentators have alleged, namely, a blueprint for a cover-up. This is obviously a big "if' which requires concrete proof," he said.

"It should not be too difficult to see why so many have seen in the 1962 Vatican Instruction a smoking gun. Over the past 18 years, but especially since January 2002, we have witnessed wave after wave of deception, stonewalling, outright lying, intimidation of victims and complex schemes to manipulate the truth and obstruct justice," Rev. Doyle said.

Although canon lawyers have one view on the document, civil lawyers handling sexual abuse lawsuits have a different understanding. Canon lawyers deal with the laws that govern operation of the church, which has its own legal system.

Houston lawyer Daniel J. Shea and Boston lawyer Carmen L. Durso recently presented a copy of the 1962 document to U.S. Attorney Michael J. Sullivan in Boston and urged him to act on what they see as an international conspiracy by the church to hush up sexual abuse issues.


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