Victims' Groups Decry Dismissal Of Military Priest

By Alan Cooperman
Washington Post [United States]
April 30, 2004

roups representing victims of clergy sexual abuse charged yesterday that the Roman Catholic Church is attempting to silence a priest who has provided expert legal advice to victims in dozens of lawsuits.

The Rev. Thomas P. Doyle, 59, was fired by his archbishop last fall, ending his 18-year career as an Air Force chaplain. The stated reason was a memo written by Doyle that said military chaplains did not have to lead Masses every day.

Susan Archibald, president of the Linkup, a Louisville-based victims' group with more than 3,200 members across the country, said Doyle "has not made many friends within the church by his willingness to testify" on behalf of victims. "This is obviously an act of retribution," she said.

Barbara Blaine, president of the Chicago-based Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, which has about 4,600 members, called Doyle "a hero" who has spent countless hours counseling victims and has helped many to regain their faith. "He spoke truth to power, and the powers have tried to squelch the messenger along with the truth," she said.

Doyle's dismissal was first reported yesterday by the New York Times. Since Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien, head of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, withdrew the church's endorsement of his chaplaincy in September, Doyle has not been able to say Masses publicly or function as a chaplain.

The Air Force, however, has kept him on as a substance abuse counselor until his scheduled retirement in August. Doyle, who holds the rank of major, said in a telephone interview from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina that he has had "complete support" from the Air Force, fellow chaplains and his own religious order, the Dominicans.

"I'm still a priest. I have done nothing illegal, immoral or unethical, except I wrote a private memo that Archbishop O'Brien interpreted to be a challenge to his authority and a denial of the importance of the Eucharist in Catholic life, though I did not intend either of those things," Doyle said.

O'Brien was out of the country yesterday, and members of his staff said he was the only person who could comment on the situation.

Doyle's career has been derailed before. In the early 1980s, he was a rising canon lawyer at the Vatican Embassy in Washington when he co-wrote a report urging U.S. bishops to take strong measures to prevent a crisis over sexual abuse of children. The bishops shelved the report, and Doyle went into the military.

"I would hope that it is not retribution, but I cannot say for sure," Doyle said yesterday. "I don't want to come off as angry or bitter or accusatory or confrontational, because I don't feel any of that. I can say that I would never retract one bit of what I've done on behalf of sexual abuse victims over the past 19 years, and I won't stop doing it."


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