Pope Francis’ Worst Nightmare: The Prophetic Voice of Fr. Tom Doyle
By Jerry Slevin
July 13, 2015
All Catholics, especially Pope Francis, should read the really remarkable and very readable new book, Whistle: Tom Doyle’s Steadfast Witness For Victims Of Clerical Sexual Abuse, by Robert Blair Kaiser. The book has been noted in a highly recommended and related brief series of articles, including ones by Jason Berry, Tom Fox and Barbara Blaine. Please consider reading all parts of the series. Please see below also Tom Doyle’s recent prophetic remarks about the really outrageous treatment of priest abuse survivors by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in its seemingly endless and very expensive bankruptcy proceedings.
This new book is the first truly insider account of the Vatican’s ongoing US strategy since 1985 for priest child abuse cover ups, a timely reminder as the popular pope plans to begin his diversionary US and UN public relations tour in September. Fr. Thomas Doyle, a Dominican priest in good standing, was there at the outset working from 1981 to 1986 behind closed doors as a canon lawyer for the Vatican’s US ambassador, Pio Laghi. For five years earlier, Laghi had as papal ambassador overseen Pope Francis’ questionable role as Argentinian Jesuit provincial in the midst of the papacy’s self interested acquiescence in the ruthless military dictatorship’s reign of terror during Argentina’s so called Dirty War.
Laghi, as this bold and revealing book reports, was then in 1985 a central figure, along with Pope John Paul II, Boston’s Cardinal Bernard Law and Philadelphia’s Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua and others, in the formation of the US bishops’ continuous cover up strategy that protected child rapists. Laghi was also one of Pope John Paul II’s key liaisons to US President Ronald Reagan and later Bush presidents and to their billionaire backers. The Vatican, in effect, apparently delivered US votes, and right wing US presidents reciprocally delivered diplomatic protection and governmental subsidies. The Vatican’s 2016 US election strategy will likely try to reinstate this political reciprocity with another Bush president, from most current indications.
For their obedience, apparently, John Paul II rewarded Laghi by making him cardinal in 1991 and Jorge Bergoglio (Pope Francis) by making him a bishop in 1992, unusual for a Jesuit. Tom Doyle, on the other hand, for being honest and brave on behalf of defenseless children, was exiled and harassed as a military chaplain, but kept on battling for children and survivors for over a quarter century, with considerable success. This very moving and fast paced book tells Doyle’s inspiring and hopeful story, one that is continuing.
Doyle is still battling. Over the last three years, he told his story in interviews to Robert Blair Kaiser, who has reported it vividly and informatively here. Kaiser, a former Jesuit for a decade, had been one of the top US reporters on Vatican matters for over fifty years, as well as the author of numerous insightful books, including “The Politics of Sex and Religion”, the classic and still relevant history of the 1960’s papal birth control commission, that Kaiser generously made available for free recently as an downloadable e-book at [Smashwords] . Kaiser at 84 died two weeks after heroically finishing this book on his deathbed. The book has benefited much from Kaiser’s broad and unique knowledge of the Catholic Church and its leadership. Kaiser, like Doyle, did not mince words and remained focused on the worst crisis facing the Catholic Church since the Reformation. This is a refreshing change in the current Francismania world where the pope’s latest planned public relations diversion (like his climate encyclical) controls most of the compliant media’s and opportunistic papal cheerleaders’ agendas. The pope usually overlooks the abuse scandal, so many in the media follow his lead!
Pope Francis has skillfully managed for over two years to avoid addressing seriously and timely holding bishops accountable for protecting priest child abusers and for denying priest abuse survivors basic justice due them. The pope now has, in effect, passed the buck to his successor in five years. Indeed, the Vatican might have succeeded in burying the abuse scandal completely, but for the brave advocacy of Tom Doyle and groups like SNAP, and some intrepid journalists like Jason Berry, Tom Fox and Arthur Jones, and the detailed documentation relentlessly generated at ABUSETRACKER at the website, BishopAccountability.org. Tom Doyle is unlikely to get a favorable call from the pope anytime soon.
What this book makes clear is that the Vatican can try to continue a bit longer to survive as an absolute monarchy, but intrepid Catholics like Doyle, by their courageous actions and truthful message also make clear, that the Vatican’s strategy will ultimately fail, sooner rather than later. The Vatican may have survived, barely, Luther and the printing press, but prophets like Tom Doyle and the Internet and 24/7 news cycle will soon sink the Vatican from most indications. The truth has it own indomitable power.
Pope Francis and his billionaire backers can have his planned $50+ million plus extravaganza to tout the “poor” and condemn same sex marriage, as now planned for Philadelphia in September, as well as his appeals to US Latino voters with his misguided canonization of oppressive Spanish colonizer, Junipero Serra. In Philadelphia, the pope may visit in prison Monsignor William Lynn, the former top priest personnel aide to Philadelphia’s cardinals, to find out, perhaps, why Lynn’s family now reportedly indicate that Cardinals Bevilacqua and Justin Rigali were the really bad guys. When the Philly confetti settles, truth tellers like Tom Doyle, and others like him, will still be standing. Spin can avoid the truth for awhile, but the horrors of priest child sexual abuse cannot be buried for long. Certainly not while Tom Doyle is on the case. And, as Doyle repeatedly stresses, so many survivors are very brave. Lynn may be the first, but will not likely be the last, US Catholic leader to serve time for covering up priest child abuse. Indeed, some Minneapolis diocesan officials, former and/or present, may already be having nightmares about being prosecuted soon from some indications. So too must some Vatican officials who reportedly advised the Minneapolis officials.
Despite the gruesome subject of priest child abuse and bishops’ cover ups, priest Tom Doyle’s story is both inspiring and hopeful. He has shown that there is at least one priest who cannot be bought or intimidated. His example has also provoked some others to speak out, and will provoke many more, both clerics and laity, in due time. Moreover, he shows that one person, if principled and brave enough, can make a real difference
So if you want to find out what is really happening behind closed Vatican doors, after the pointless parades, you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to read this book about one who knows first hand, Tom Doyle. You will be glad you did. I certainly am. Thank God for Tom Doyle!
Doyle’s many contributions over a quarter century include countless appearances as an expert witness on behalf of abuse survivors in civil lawsuits. He knows from his up close experience that wealthy Catholic Church leaders are prepared, with Vatican blessings, to spend billions of docile Catholics’ donations to preserve their comfortable unaccountable status while stiffing abuse survivors. In desperation, many survivors are forced to seek governmental support shifting the consequences of clerical crimes to taxpayers, both Catholic and non-Catholics, while bishops live in luxury. Some abuse victims are less fortunate and end up committing suicide.
Doyle also knows that withholding donations and filing civil lawsuits alone are not enough to make bishops accountable. He has played key roles, directly and/or indirectly, in governmental investigations, including the recent ones in Minneapolis and Philadelphia, as well as abroad, including in Australia and Ireland. He also was one of the first to sign the petition to President Obama calling for a US national investigation into institutional child sexual abuse, as Australia successfully has underway and the United Kingdom has recently begun.
Perhaps the reports of child abuse allegations directed at the former US Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, will wake up the American people. For many years, Hastert was the second in line to succeed to the most powerful position in the world, US President, and yet barely a peep from US government leaders about the Hastert reports. What did they know and when did they know it? It may be that clericalism, or rallying around one’s privileged elite group, applies to politicians as well as bishops. Time, prosecutors and media investigators will likely soon tell why the President and US Congress appear to fear a Federal investigation of institutional child abuse so long overdue. In the UK over 75 politicians reportedly are currently being investigated on child abuse related matters. Are US politicians purer or are US voters just dumber?
Here are Fr. Thomas P. Doyle. O.P. ‘s recent full remarks on behalf of Milwaukee priest abuse survivors, which show clearly why the Vatican fears his prophetic voice:
MILWAUKEE ARCHDIOCESE — HYPOCRISY AT ITS WORST
By Thomas P. Doyle, J.C.D., C.A.D.C. May 26, 2015
Recently a prominent psychologist with over two decades of intense experience helping clergy abuse victims said that the most morally compromised group of people he knew of were the attorneys who represent the Catholic Church in the abuse cases. The recent pronouncement of Francis LoCoco, lead lawyer for the Milwaukee Archdiocese, confirms this opinion. “Let’s spend the money” he is quoted as saying, in reference to the 56 million dollars that Cardinal Dolan illegally and immorally tried to divert in the notorious Milwaukee bankruptcy proceedings. Lest the lawyers bear the brunt of the blame, the main culprits are the present archbishop, Listecki, and his predecessor, Dolan. The squadron of attorneys work for them and not the other way around.
When abuse survivors call attention to the stonewalling tactics and often-vicious attitudes of the Church’s lawyers, its not uncommon for the bishops to plead innocence, claiming that it’s the lawyers doing their job. But the lawyers are hired by and work for the bishop and not vice versa. The disgusting charade going on in Milwaukee was cooked up by and has been sustained by Dolan and Listecki. Thus far the Milwaukee lawyers have spent over $20 million dollars to stonewall the victims. Some bishops and church cheerleaders in this case and others have regularly tried to blame the victims and their lawyers, claiming they are only in it for the money. This is nonsense. The Church lawyers get paid by the hour, win or lose. Victims’ lawyers are paid on the contingency that the case will end in favor of the victim. I have known lawyers who represented victims who took major cuts so that their clients would end up with some respectable compensation. How many of the Church lawyers work sex abuse cases pro bono? The money the archbishop is encouraging his lawyers to squander comes from the People of God of the archdiocese.
The bankruptcy process was initiated over four years ago, on January 4, 2011 to be exact, two days before the archbishop was scheduled to be deposed. The church’s lawyers are challenging each and every claim of the 570 victims who have come forward. Many of the claimants were among the 200 deaf boys sexually violated by Fr. Lawrence Murphy at St. John’s School for the Deaf. These victims have been fighting for decades for some form of justice and what they have received instead has been vicious, dishonest and certainly unchristian revictimization.
The archbishops of Milwaukee going back to Cardinal Albert Meyer have all played a key role in making the Milwaukee Church unique in its hypocritical and narcissistic response to the havoc caused by its priests. Meyer was told about Lawrence Murphy way back in the mid fifties and sent him on retreat for a month. The Redemptorist priest who reported Murphy to Cardinal Meyer also reported his behavior to the Apostolic delegate in Washington so the Holy See effectively knew about Murphy way back then.
Archbishop Cousins, whose tenure lasted from 1958 to 1977, knew about Murphy and not only did nothing, but he threatened one of the deaf boys who reported Murphy and forced him to sign a letter of retraction.
Rembert Weakland was archbishop from 1977 to 2002. He was faced with reports not only about Murphy but several other Milwaukee priests. Weakland’s track record in responding to victims is far from stellar but at least he tried to get Murphy laicized with no success, thanks to former Pope Benedict and his cohort, Cardinal Bertone who refused Weakland’s request and allowed Murphy to live out his days in the dignity of his priesthood while his victims lived out their days in the agony of his abuse. Then came Dolan in 2002.
Dolan tried to deal with the sex abuse nightmare primarily with his “hail fellow well met” personality but his rhetoric and back-slapping fell flat in the face of what he was really up to. Bankruptcy was being used by some bishops as a way to avoid trials and the revelation of the truth that comes with them, as well as a way to limit the compensation given to victims. Although he would be gone when the bankruptcy process started Dolan obviously knew where it was all going. He diverted approximately $56 million dollars into a cemetery trust in 2007. When accused of trying to hide the money in 2011, he lashed out at victims’ attorney Jeff Anderson and accused him of spreading “groundless gossip.” Dolan’s lie was discovered when a letter he wrote to the Vatican in 2007 came to light….a letter in which he sought permission to transfer the $56 million to a restricted trust. Why? To quote his own words “I foresee an improved protection of these funds from and legal claim and liability.” A local judge, Rudolph Randa, ruled that the transfer was protected by the first amendment and that “removing some or all of these funds from the trust and placing them in the bankruptcy estate would undoubtedly put substantial pressure on Archbishop Listecki to modify his behavior and violate his beliefs.” Over two years later a federal appeals court ruled that Randa was not only wrong but should have removed himself from the case. The $56 million was back on the table. Now LoCoco and his fellow lawyers have declared that they plan on spending it all in litigation. Is this protracted and obscenely expensive process about achieving justice and assuring fair compensation for victims, as Archbishop Listecki has claimed in attempting to justify it? Not by a long shot!
In his narcissistic arrogance Listecki openly invited all who were sexually abused to step forward: “nothing will prevent me from making every possible effort at moving forward toward healing and resolution with those who have been harmed.” His real plan was to get them all to step up so that he could have his lawyers do everything possible to have their cases thrown out of court. The best comment on this comes from one of the victims: “These victims have already been betrayed by the Church in the most damaging ways imaginable. How could the archbishop, a man of God, then proceed to try to throw each and every one of their cases out of court? This action in effect re-abused and betrayed these fragile victims yet again.”
Judge Randa said that putting the cemetery trust millions back on the table would put pressure on Listecki to violate his beliefs. What beliefs? There is nothing even remotely Christian or even Catholic about the travesty he is presiding over. He’s a civil lawyer himself so he knows well that the millions spent thus far represent countless billable hours for the lawyers defending his strategy. This is tons of money they will take home whether they win or lose. The only belief that seems to be in danger of violation is the belief that the victims whose lives have already been severely damaged by the negligence of his predecessor, must now be pounded into the ground and defeated once and for all.
The Milwaukee bankruptcy has been a mockery of the American judicial process. It is an unconscionable abuse and subversion of the legal process, using it as a weapon to punish and further traumatize the victims. It has surely justified the pessimistic and negative image of civil attorneys and it has also made a mockery of the office of bishop. It is an example of the virus of clericalism at its virulent worst. What Dolan, Listecki and the phalanx of attorneys have completely lost sight of, in addition to the objective meaning if justice, is what this is really all about: several hundred young boys and girls who were believing and trusting Catholics and who were betrayed and violated in the worst imaginable ways by the very men they trusted. As their lives unfolded they had the courage to take the risk of confronting the Archdiocese. Rather than act like the Body of Christ, the leaders of this Church have come at the victims with every resource available to punish them for having had the audacity to demand that which their Church incessantly preaches about, justice and charity.