Retaliation, Father Doyle?

Story Hunters [United States]
April 30, 2004

The Rev. Thomas Doyle sounds like a nice guy. He's an advocate for victims of sex abuse by Catholic priests, providing legal help and speaking out publicly for them. He's also the winner of the Isaac Hecker award for social justice.

So why has the Catholic hierarchy got such a hard-on for him? Father Doyle was removed from his job in September- and the removal has only now become public. Abuse victims and advocacy groups say that the Church is retaliating against Doyle for his firm stand beside the victims of sex abuse.

They haven't burned Doyle at the stake yet, but they have removed him from a job he deeply loved- right before his retirement, too.

His dismissal stemmed from a memorandum he wrote for two superiors at Ramstein interpreting the archbishop's expectations for how Catholic base personnel should be ministered to. On several points, he appears to contradict the written guidelines of Archbishop O'Brien.

For example, the archbishop had said that base chaplains were expected to celebrate Mass daily and that Catholics at installations with assigned priests "have the right to attend Mass regularly."

Actually, Father Doyle wrote, Catholics do not have a right to daily Mass, according to church law. Daily Mass is a strong custom, but not "an essential element of the practice" of the faith. He also contradicted Archbishop O'Brien by saying the archbishop's permission was not needed to substitute a communion service on Sunday for a Mass if no Catholic priest was available...

... Archbishop O'Brien said Father Doyle's positions had caused him to lose confidence. "There is nothing more important to our priests and our people than the Eucharistic celebration," he wrote in terminating the priest's chaplaincy. "Your refusal to accept that and your attempt to provide an alternate authority on that issue is unacceptable."

For his part, Father Doyle said that he was giving his opinion on church requirements at a time when there was a shortage of priests to cover Ramstein and two nearby bases. He said he completely accepted the central role of the Eucharist and the archbishop's authority. (quoted from NY Times article)

Sounds like a theological tempest in a teakettle, right?

Barbara Blaine of SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests) disagrees.

The hierarchy's decision to discipline Father Tom Doyle is but one more example of the harsh and insensitive handling of the horrific sex abuse crisis by bishops. It is also, we believe, one more sign that bishops are quickly heading back toward "business as usual," by trying to discredit and silence the single most effective advocate for clergy abuse victims anywhere. This is a crude and cruel effort to intimidate and punish perhaps the most brave priest in America. (posted on SNAP website linked above.)

Father Doyle has been a working advocate of sex abuse victims since the mid-80's. In a hierarchy where most priests only seem concerned about saving their own skins and prerogatives in the face of a mounting epidemic of sex abuse accusations, Father Doyle has been quietly working on behalf of the shamed. His knowledge of the Byzantine power structure within the Church has been invaluable to the victims- and their lawyers.

One suspects that the Catholic hierarchy has not been amused by this priest who actually seemed to take Christ's example to heart.

But why ask me? Let's let Father Doyle speak for himself. From June 11, 2002, in the National Catholic Reporter.

This is all a painful reminder of the fact that the Catholic church is centered on Jesus Christ, not any human structure. Furthermore, its claims to reflect the word and example of Christ must be present in the real life of the church, not just in sermons or theology books. It means little to a wounded survivor to say "the church is love" unless we do it, not by word but by action.

The credibility of the hierarchy will not be restored by mere words - more decrees, more public apologies, more promises of "no more abuse." New and streamlined ways of disposing of abusive clerics (and the further tromping underfoot of that wonderful American value called "due process") won't do it. The bishops need to openly and honestly admit why there have been cover-ups and lies. Following this, their credibility might possibly be restored somewhere in the future if they begin now to actually get to know the victims and survivors by reaching out, one by one, to them.

"What would Jesus Do?" That's not just a cutesy motto for teens or dreamy idealists. That is the fundamental issue before the church today. The answer is obvious. It's not one that comes out of power or medieval panoply but genuine compassion for those who are in pain. It means action, not just words. It also means accepting not only what Jesus would do, but quite possibly what he is doing right now, and that is reminding us just what his church is all about.

Yes, sounds to me like the Church is going to roast him for sure.


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