One True Priest
Sex-Abuse Whistleblower Father Thomas Doyle Says Cardinal Mahony Has 'Done Nothing' to Help Victims of Pedophile Priests
By André Coleman
June 8, 2006
In the mid-1980s, the Rev. Thomas Doyle wrote a memo to his superiors in the Catholic Church warning them of the "irreparable financial and spiritual damage" that was coming if Church leaders did not start taking seriously the many priests who were engaged in sexual relations with underage members of their parishes.
Unfortunately, very few in the Church hierarchy took the memo seriously, and parishes across the country have been embroiled in civil and criminal cases that have already cost the Church billions of dollars, according to numerous media outlets.
In Southern California alone, more than 500 people claim they were molested by priests assigned to churches in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Over the past several years, Cardinal Roger Mahony refused to release files on dozens of suspected pedophile priests to authorities, claiming that releasing the files to prosecutors violated the confidentiality of the priests involved, as well as the religious protections afforded them, Mahony and the Church under the First Amendment.
Church lawyers claimed that the records were protected by clergy-penitent confidentiality, which, according to Doyle's book, "Sex Priests and Secret Codes: The Catholic Church's 2,000-year Paper Trail of Sexual Abuse," drive "the urgent need of people to confide in, without fear of reprisal, those entrusted with the pressing task of offering spiritual guidance so that harmony with one's self and others can be realized."
But while Church hierarchy became the butt of late-night TV jokes and was vilified by victims, Doyle became a hero, regularly attending survivor meetings and granting interviews with reporters.
Doyle was ordained a Dominican priest in 1970 after completing his studies in Dubuque, Iowa. He holds master's degrees in philosophy, theology and political science from the Aquinas Institute of Philosophy and Theology and the University of Wisconsin. He holds a doctorate in Canon Law and has served at St. Joseph's Church in New London, Conn., St. Mary's Church in Clinton, Conn., and Sacred Heart Church in Vernon, Conn.
At the height of the Church sex scandal in 2003, a time when priests were being arrested across the country, Doyle was quietly relieved of his duties as an Air Force chaplain while stationed in Germany by Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien, head of the Archdiocese of Military Services, because of a difference of opinion on the necessity of celebrating daily Mass on military bases.
Being relieved of duty came at a critical time for Doyle. The First Amendment argument was just about to come before the US Supreme Court. But unlike the Church, the high court decided to listen to what Doyle had to say.
Doyle wrote a declaration for the Supreme Court stating that communications between the archdiocese and bishops are not privileged, as Church leaders had contended.
The court agreed and ordered the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to turn over the files on ex-priests George Miller and Michael Baker.
Miller is currently under investigation, and Baker is presently in custody at Men's Central Jail in Los Angeles where he awaits trial on eight counts of oral copulation with a person under the age of 18.
The court's decision has left many hopeful that Mahony will be forced to turn over files on all priests accused of molestation and sex crimes, something Doyle believes the cardinal should have done all along.
Pasadena Weekly: The Church claimed that these files were protected by the First Amendment. What did your declaration to the Supreme Court say?
Father Doyle: I listed the Church's historical background, canon law and the historical development of the clergy-penitent rights. I said the documents may be sensitive and even confidential, but there is nothing that classifies them as privileged.
Should Cardinal Mahony be in jail?
There will be a grand jury investigation. I think his role has to be investigated, and I think if he is guilty, he should be indicted. I don't care what his title is. This is not the same as a stop-sign violation or stealing from the collection plate. These crimes have ruined people, and I don't think he is capable of comprehending the depth of the damage. The victims' groups are saying that he has known about sexual abuse by priests and has covered for them and failed to disclose it to authorities and reassigned them. I think all of that is true. He has done nothing to help the victims other than a lot of rhetoric. Mahony lives like a king. The cardinal, without consulting the people of his diocese, has probably used hundreds of thousands of dollars a month to fight this.
Has the church leadership always known about the molestation?
When I was a seminarian in the '60s, I knew it was going on. Everyone described it as priests who had problems with altar boys. Clerics claimed they never knew priests who broke their vow of celibacy until 1986. If I knew, they knew. This stuff has been going on for centuries. It got out of hand when the bishops, rather than deal with it up front and remove known abusers and treat the victims with care, stonewalled and moved the abusers. They were more concerned about image, money and power.
What's the biggest problem in the Catholic Church?
Within the Catholic Church there is a big misunderstanding. The people see the church as the hierarchy of the bishops and the clerics, but the people are the majority and what's most important is their spiritual welfare. Most people in the Catholic Church, I think, attend Mass out of fear. They are taught that the Almighty will send them to hell if they don't attend Mass and they die before they can confess it. They're led to believe since the time they are infants that God is angry and just and almost vindictive, which is a distorted vision of a higher power.
How much damage has this done to the Church?
I think the damage has been profound. You can't assess a church on how many people show up on Sunday or how much money they give. A lot of people may give for social advantages because of their family name. You can go on Sunday to be seen with the right people and not agree or accept the message.
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