Dissenting Priest Scornful of Pope, Bishops

By Dan DeLeo
Quincy Patriot Ledger [Quincy MA]
Downloaded March 22, 2004

WEYMOUTH - The way to bring change to the Catholic church is to challenge its hierarchy, demand democratic reforms and ‘‘stop giving money," a nationally known advocate for victims of clergy sex abuse says.

‘‘The problem is not simply the men who abuse children, but the misuse of power and abuse of power," the Rev. Thomas Doyle, a Dominican priest and one-time rising star in the church, said yesterday at St. Albert the Great parish in Weymouth.

More than 450 people attended the lecture, which was the Rev. Doyle's first appearance on the South Shore.

An Air Force chaplain, he was a canon lawyer with a prestigious post at the Vatican embassy in Washington.

But, he said, his report in the mid-1980s on priest sex abuse in a parish in Louisiana and his warning that more problems would surface resulted in his being fired. Since then, he has been an outspoken critic of the church and how it has handled priests accused of sex abuse and the victims.

‘‘This has been a nightmare since 1984," when newspapers began reporting on a sex-abuse scandal in Lafayette, La., the Rev. Doyle said. ‘‘And it has forced me to shed my false sense of security in the institution and take upon myself the responsibility of my spiritual growth."

The church is being forced to confront the issue because of the victims who have come forward, unrelenting media outlets and an impartial judiciary, the Rev. Doyle said.

Now, he said, it is up to lay Catholics to keep up the pressure.

‘‘The difference now is this issue is being pushed to the surface and this time the church hierarchy is not in control," he said. ‘‘You are in control because you have had the courage to ask the question, why?"

Some at yesterday's event left emboldened to continue calling for reforms in the church.

‘‘I think (Pope John Paul II) should step down," said John Creed of Kingston, a former priest who serves on the Silver Lake Regional School Committee. ‘‘He's a major reason for the secrecy in the church, and that's why the church is in the mess it's in today."

During a question-and-answer session, an audience member asked the Rev. Doyle if the pope knew about the abuse scandal, which involved moving accused priests from parish to parish rather than removing them permanently.

The Rev. Doyle said he informed the pope of the abuse as early as 1985, when he sent his report to all the bishops.

‘‘The pope has known all along," he said. ‘‘And the response of the Vatican has been sinfully inadequate."

If the Vatican fails to take action against complicit bishops, the Rev. Doyle said, Catholics should use legal means to have them removed.

‘‘If they're guilty, they should be indicted," he said. ‘‘Why not? Put a couple of these guys in jail."

On other subjects, the Rev. Doyle said he ‘‘can't see any problem" with gay marriage. Heterosexual marriage has been destroying itself, he added.

He also said he believes women should be allowed to become ordained priests and that he believes priests should be allowed to marry.

He said John Paul II has ‘‘done more harm to the body of Christ than any pope in 700 years," citing the pope's handling of the priest sex abuse scandals, appointments of ultraconservative bishops and centralization of power.

The Rev. Doyle's lecture was sponsored by the local chapter of Voice of the Faithful, a lay organization formed in 2002 in response to the sex-abuse crisis in Boston.

MaryAnn Keyes, a founder of the group, said the Rev. Doyle was ‘‘the voice of what our church should be and what our mission should be."

The Rev. Doyle was frequently interrupted by applause during the talk. He lambasted what he called the deification of church leaders and defined clericalism as the belief by clergy that they are spiritually and emotionally better than the non-ordained.

‘‘You can get to heaven without the priests, the pope, the bishops, the sacraments," he said. ‘‘All you need is faith."

As people left the lecture, some said they regret that Rev. Doyle's warnings about an impending crisis went unheeded. ‘‘It's sad to think about all those kids who were abused, and that it could have been stopped," said Joe Lynch, a St. Albert parishioner.


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