Lecturer: Don't Give to Church
Priest Says Money Should Go to Victims

By Maricella Miranda
Belleville News-Democrat [Belleville IL]
November 23, 2004

BELLEVILLE - A Catholic priest and advocate for sex abuse survivors in the Roman Catholic Church told a group Sunday to stop supporting the institutional church with donations.

During the 10th annual John XXIII lecture for the Fellowship of Southern Illinois Laity, the Rev. Thomas Doyle said Catholics should be independent of the Catholic Church to stop what he described as the church's abuse of power.

"We've got to stop giving money to the institution," Doyle said. "That's the only act they'll understand."

He suggests people donate instead to organizations that help victims of sexual abuse, such as the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and the Linkup.

About 196 people attended the lecture. They questioned Doyle about how they could educate their children in Roman Catholicism independent of the church.

They also discussed problems in metro-east churches, including allegations of theft and sexual abuse. For example, they talked about the Rev. Gerald Bunse, who resigned as pastor of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Edwardsville in January after taking $226,000 to support a gambling habit. He has since been reassigned to Our Savior Church in Jacksonville as a priest in residence.

People questioned Doyle about sexual abuse in local churches. To date, 14 priests and a deacon have been removed in the Belleville Diocese as a result of sexual abuse allegations.

About 20 years ago, Doyle warned Catholic bishops about the sexual abuse crisis, he said. He sacrificed his career as a canon lawyer at the Vatican Embassy in Washington, D.C., to be an activist against sexual abuse in the church. Last year, Doyle was the first recipient of the Priest of Integrity Award sponsored by Voice of the Faithful, an independent Catholic organization.

"If you're raised as a Catholic, you're told to believe everything that the clerics say to you, and I did it for a while," Doyle said. "I was believing in things that weren't true."

Anne Harter, a member of the laity group, said that like the organization, Doyle is an advocate for change in the Catholic Church.

"The problem is the abuse of power in our church to allow (sexual abuse) to happen," Harter said. "He's calling for us to stop the abuse of power in the Catholic Church."

Doyle said the institutional Catholic Church uses donations to pay for sexual abuse scandals. He also said church leaders have known about sexual abuse by clergy but have refused to talk about the problem.

"People knew about this for eons," Doyle said. "The clergy was afraid to air out their dirty laundry."


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