Arrogance of Bishops Is Appalling

By Bill Wineke
Wisconsin State Journal
April 30, 2004

You may never have heard of the Rev. Thomas P. Doyle, but he is a central character in the ongoing saga of sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church - and he's the guy with the white hat.

Doyle, 59, is the priest who, in 1986, wrote a confidential memo to all American bishops warning them that abuse was a huge problem in the church and urging them to do something about it.

The church responded by firing him.

So, Doyle joined the Air Force as a chaplain and has spent the intervening years doing pastoral work, most recently at the Air Force's Ramstein Air Base in Germany, where he is one of three priests to minister to 15,000 residents, plus the wounded troops who are airlifted to the base almost daily. He has remained a critic of the way his church has handled sexual abuse complaints.

Now, the church has fired him again. According to the Associated Press, Archbishop Edwin O'Brien, of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, has withdrawn his endorsement of Doyle as a chaplain. Doyle may no longer say public Mass.

Was Doyle caught in some scandal? Nope. It seems that O'Brien issued a ruling that priest chaplains be required to celebrate Mass daily, while Doyle, who holds a Ph.D. in church law, said that daily Masses are "strongly recommended" by church law but not mandated.

For this, he was fired?

Some of Doyle's supporters think he is being punished not for disagreeing with his bishop but for his prominence in the fight against clerical sexual abuse. I wonder where they get an idea like that?

Doyle's fate is not dismal. He arranged a temporary chaplain endorsement from another church so that he can stay in the Air Force until he qualifies for benefits. And, when he's not in the service, he's a Dominican priest, so someone will find pastoral work for him.

Indeed, all of this happened months ago. Doyle never sought publicity and the matter remained secret until the AP reported it Thursday.

But that's not the point.

The point is that the church's most prominent priest proponent of reform has yet again been kicked in the teeth by the church hierarchy.

Do you really think these guys have any interest in actually reforming their church? Or is their interest based in the perpetuation of their power and the silencing of anyone who gets in the way?

Oh, I know. I'm tarring a group of hundreds of men, most of whom are decent, caring pastors, with a broad brush. I'm being unfair. I'm being judgmental.

But, honest to God, this continual theme of bishop arrogance is just appalling.

At the very least, I think some of the bishops who are so willing to tell political candidates to shape up or stay away from Communion ought to make a public defense of Father Doyle.

That's what I hope. But, frankly, that's not what I expect. After all, this happened some time ago and my guess is O'Brien's fellow bishops knew about it and said nothing.

Many of the bishops who swept clergy sexual abuse under the rug are still in office, and what I expect is that they will remain silent about this outrage, too.

Meanwhile, out in the parishes, overworked priests will continue to be embarrassed by the actions of those who run their church and will receive little support from above.

Contact Bill Wineke at or at 252-6146.


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