Tom Doyle - The Truth Seeker

By Jay Korff
July 15, 2019

[with video]

If you ask Tom Doyle to describe himself he would say a former priest and Catholic Church attorney who now helps priest sex abuse survivors by testifying in court cases as an expert on the policies and practices of the Church. Doyle also consults for states and nations investigation child sex abuse.

In a sense, Doyle is a whistle blower for how the Catholic Church used to, and presently, operates.

He says leadership within the Catholic Church is doing much better in terms of preventing pedophile priests from abusing and helping abuse survivors get help. But he says the lies continue and for that reason shared his thoughts with ABC7 News for The 50 Year Secret.

Tom Doyle was an active priest from 1970 to 2004. He also served as a US Air Force Chaplain for nearly 20 years.

Doyle now testifies on behalf of abuse survivors and consults for states and nations investigated priest sex abuse. He's certified expert on Canon Law.

“I have been involved in this, directly involved since the very beginning and no one else has. I was involved in the middle, in the inside of the Roman Catholic Church. I worked at the Vatican Embassy.”

Doyle was an attorney for the Catholic Church in the 1980s.

During that time, he looked at widespread allegations of priest sex abuse in a Louisiana diocese that erupted in scandal.

“The institutional church, and by that I mean the Bishops, wanted to cover it up," Doyle says. "And I also learned in time that they not only wanted to cover it up but they had been covering it up, indeed all over the country and as I found out as time went on, all over the world.”

“I was cautioned to keep my mouth shut, that we take care of our own problems, keep this secret, it will harm the church," he says. "Once I met some victims I realized that that was toxic advice.”

The Church’s historic pattern according to Doyle: Deny the abuse, minimize, shift blame, devalue the victim, intimidate, don’t contact police, maintain secrecy and move priests without telling anyone.

“The number one priority through all of this has been the image, the prestige, the power of the institutional church. And by that, I mean the Bishops themselves. That’s what was number one. Not the kids.”

Tom Doyle knew Father William Reinecke, a priest credibly accused of child sex abuse.

“I was a student at Catholic University in the graduate school of Canon Law in the mid-70s and Bill Reinecke was also a student at that time," he says. "He was a year ahead of me. We were in a number of classes together. We became acquaintances. I got to know him. We weren’t tight friends, tight buddies, because he didn’t live on campus.”

Survivors like Becky Ianni say Father Reinecke abused her when he worked at St. Mary in Alexandria in the late 1960s.

Others say Reinecke abused them when he worked at St. Charles in Arlington in the early 1970s.

“Somewhere along the line, someone was too afraid to report him," according to Doyle. "And a lot of that fear came from the brainwashing by the Catholic Church. He’s a priest. You can’t turn him in. And I even wonder had somebody turned him in way back then if they would have even been believed. We won’t know that. We will never know that.”

“And I recall receiving a call one day from a friend of mine here in Washington who said to me, ‘Tom, you are not going to believe this but Bill Reinecke committed suicide.’ And I said ‘What?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, Bill Reinecke committed suicide.’”

According to published reports, Reinecke killed himself near Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, Virginia. He was 53.

Two days earlier, one of Reinecke’s victims confronted Reinecke outside St. James Church demanding his resignation.

“A lot of these serial predators — maybe not Bill, I don’t know all the facts — could have been stopped because the church knew about it and did nothing.”

Father Reinecke worked for both the Diocese of Richmond and Arlington.

Richmond declined to answer any of our questions about this story “out of respect for the privacy of survivors of abuse.”

“That entire response, the totality of that response, is completely ridiculous and dishonest. They don’t care about the victims. They use that as an excuse, that’s been used time and time again...They do not give one wit about the victims. If they did this problem would have not escalated the way it has.”

The Diocese of Arlington responded to most, but not all, of our questions about Father Reinecke and priest sex abuse. They insist all abuse allegations levelled against Reinecke were reported after his death.

"Arlington may be giving the appearances of being more transparent which is fine but not totally transparent, which is common. Richmond is still playing the game giving you these phony excuses expecting you to believe those excuses and nobody does any more," Doyle says.

“My feeling, from my experience, is that they are trying to keep as much of Bill Reinecke’s history buried as is possible because it’s obvious that he had a long and very detailed history of sexual abuse of young people that goes way back. And they don’t want that known.”

Doyle says the Catholic Church has made major improvements in recent years following state investigations.

“After the Pennsylvania report a number of other state attorneys general and governors decided they were going to do the same thing. And so they started investigating the Catholic Church in state after state. I believe the number is now up to 18 or 19 now.”

“OK, they are protecting children now and in the future," Doyle says. "But they are neglecting the victims they have already created. That’s a big problem. The victims they have already created are in many, many ways being left behind and not given the full truth and not treated as they should be because that’s a much more difficult challenge is working with the victims you have already created.”

According to, more than 141 Dioceses and Religious Institutes have published lists of credibly accused priests.

“The information is either incomplete but even more important the list of names are incomplete. It’s done intentionally. They know they are incomplete and they decide we figured that this one wasn’t credible. Well, they are not in a position, the Bishops are not in a position, to decide what’s credible and what isn’t credible. That whole concept is totally ridiculous where they are going to judge themselves and police themselves because obviously they can’t. They haven’t been able to do it yet and do it right so they can’t start now.”

Doyle says expect civil authorities to put even more pressure on Church leaders. He says an investigation is underway in Virginia and there will likely be one in Maryland.

“We’re going to find out that it’s been a lot more systemic than we thought. There will be a lot more victims. A lot more perpetrators.”

Tom Doyle estimates, dating back to the 1950s, that 15,000 priests sexually abused more than 100,000 children in the US.

“They still don’t get it. They still don’t understand how horrific it is to have widespread sexual violation of innocent people by priests as part of the very culture of the Catholic Church. And when that becomes as horrendous to the Popes and the Bishops as it is to normal people then we are making headway.”

“The victims themselves have challenged the institutional church and because of their commitment to what has happened to them, to doing the right thing, things have changed. We are never going back to the way we were in 1984. The days of their secrecy, being able to get away with this, expecting deferential treatment are gone.”

“The Diocese remains ready to speak with victims who have not yet come forward and now want to tell their story. We welcome the chance to assist them in their healing and offer pastoral support.” -Diocese of Arlington

“What we continue to do and remain committed to within our Diocese is to help victims of clergy sexual abuse heal from the transgressions of the past while protecting our children and others who are vulnerable today. That is our pledge and remains our promise.” -Diocese of Richmond

“no one who has been credibly accused remains in active ministry in the Diocese of Richmond to the best of our knowledge.” -Diocese of Richmond


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