Posts Tagged Fr. Thomas Doyle
Rev. Thomas P. Doyle, who has a doctorate in canon law and five master’s degrees, sacrificed a rising career at the Vatican Embassy to become an outspoken advocate for church abuse victims. Since 1984, when he became involved with the issue of sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy while serving at the Embassy, he has become an expert in the canonical and pastoral dimensions of this problem—working directly with victims, their families, accused priests, and Church officials.
SNAP is well known by sex abuse survivors throughout the world. It’s also well known by those who still believe the clergy abuse phenomenon is a gross exaggeration that is primarily about harming the Church.
SNAP was started by Barbara Blaine in 1988. Barbara is a survivor of sexual violation by a priest whom she and her family trusted. She was violated as a pre-teen. By the time she was a young woman the scars were still as painful as ever. Barbara started SNAP as a support group for other survivors because, as she herself has said, “No one else would help so we had to help ourselves.”
Barbara was dead right. I have been involved with survivors since 1984. I have heard many … more than I can count … tell their sad and shocking stories. All were from devout Catholic families and naturally turned to the Church for help, but to their added shock they found they were being ignored, lied to, threatened into silence and in general treated as if they had some sort of communicable disease. Barbara Blaine experienced this and had the courage to stand up rather than stay a victim.
SNAP grew steadily because the number of victims increased when the media began actually covering it and not burying it. SNAP and the LINKUP were the only places victims could go for support. The Church was no help. In fact, when victims got involved with the Church, even to a minor degree, they almost always ended up being re-traumatized.
By the nineties, SNAP members were not just sitting in rooms listening to each other’s stories. They were organizing for a purpose: to get the attention of the bishops and the institutional church. Sex abuse by clerics was far more widespread than anyone imagined and certainly far, far worse than the Church spokespersons claimed.
This was not a few bad apples, a passing problem, or a temporary nuisance. This was the uncovering of the worst crisis the institutional Catholic Church had faced in at least a thousand years, and it was not from the outside but from within.
The institutional Catholic Church responded to the victims of abuse by its own clerics (including bishops and cardinals) in a manner that shocked, angered and scandalized not only the victims but countless others. The official Church’s highest and really only priority was self-preservation and the institutional image. The often-used term “the good of the church” really meant the good of the bishops.
The victims would have been trampled underfoot and left in the dust if it had not been for Barbara Blaine, Dave Clohessy, and the other courageous founders and leaders of SNAP.
Needless to say, SNAP wasn’t high on the list of favorites for a lot of people, especially the bishops. SNAP members got in their faces, openly criticized them, called them out for hiding predators, and condemned their duplicitous words and actions. They wrote letters, held press conferences, demonstrated and, most important, gave other victims courage to come out of the shadows.
Here was this little group of people with no money and no political connections facing off with the Catholic bishops of the United States. In spite of the impossible odds and the massive power imbalance, they made headway.
Why? Because they were right and the Church was wrong.
Now, SNAP is in the crosshairs. As most know, a former employee has filed a lawsuit that makes several allegations and in general tries to portray SNAP as a deceptive, dishonest criminal enterprise. The plaintiff makes a number of serious accusations in her complaint, but they really are aimed at SNAP’s top national leaders and not the organization. She departed SNAP four years ago and now has decided to file a lawsuit.
Her contention that SNAP was actually a cover for an elaborate system involving steering victims to attorneys who in turn paid it kickbacks is ludicrous. Victims from all over the world call SNAP leaders, especially the national leaders, all the time and a common request is for the name of a lawyer.
SNAP is far more than the national offices, which consists of a handful of people. In reality the organization is a collection of local chapters each with its own leadership. Most direct contact with victims happens on the local level because that’s where the SNAP membership is.
When responding to requests for lawyers, the SNAP policy always has been to respond to with three names or more. I also have gotten plenty of requests for help in finding a lawyer. (I gave up recommending victims to their local diocesan headquarters because I learned that this was not only useless but counter-productive.) I recommend the names of attorneys in the area where the person lives … if more than one lawyer is available, I give them contact points for all. I have never acted as an intermediary between a victim and a specific attorney. Instead I suggest they contact the attorney themselves.
On many occasions, I am asked to connect the person to a specific attorney, and the number one name on the list is Jeff Anderson. I always explain that if they are looking to get Jeff Anderson, they need to know that he does not practice in every State in the union nor can he possibly take every case that comes his way. If someone wants Jeff’s phone number or that of anyone else, I give it.
That’s how the SNAP leaders operate too. I don’t get any royalties or kickbacks, nor does SNAP.
It’s true that attorneys have donated money to SNAP over the years. Forbes Magazine wrote an article about this a few years ago and tried to make it sound like the practice was immoral, unethical, illegal, or all three—and in fact it is none of the above.
People ask for specific attorneys like Jeff Anderson because he is known worldwide and, most important, he is known to be a very compassionate and caring man. I’ve known him since 1989 and he is in fact caring and compassionate besides being a brilliant attorney. To even dream that he has some sort of backroom deal with SNAP is not only lunacy but an insult to his intelligence. He and the other attorneys who do the bulk of the sex abuse cases are not stupid. To get engaged in a kickback scheme would be stupid and, worse, it would be professionally suicidal.
SNAP has incurred the wrath of a lot of bishops and a lot of devout lay Catholics. Why? One of the more obvious reasons given is that SNAP appears to attack the Church and it never lets people forget that the “problem” is still with us. The bishops and a lot of lay people would like to see SNAP suddenly disappear into the mist—but not just SNAP: all victims and their supporters.
SNAP and the victims are a major threat to the equilibrium and to the secure image projected by the institutional Catholic Church. Shaking up the security people have in their Church, especially one that promises them salvation in exchange for obedience, docility and generosity, is bound to generate a hostile response.
Much of the hostility, anger and denial generated by the clergy abuse issue are grounded in the unwillingness to accept the reality that the Church and its clergy aren’t as perfect as people expect them to be.
One adult woman I knew, a victim of rape by a priest at twelve, put it succinctly: “Clergy abuse has destroyed the security we had that the priests would tell us everything we needed to do and to know. Now, we have to take charge of our own spirituality and be adult Catholics. That’s hard.”
Much of the angry rhetoric comes in the form of accusations that victims are dissenters from doctrine or that they are pushing anti-orthodox agendas (e.g., birth control, ordination of women). The most common accusation is that SNAP, the victims, and anyone on their side is attacking the Church.
Most victims could care less about Church teachings. They are interested in honesty and justice, two commodities in short supply in the institutional Church. The sexual violation of minors or adults and the lying and cover-up by bishops has nothing to do with orthodoxy, dissent or belief in official dogmas. It has everything to do with betrayal by the trusted clergy. But most important, it’s about the violation of the bodies and souls of the vulnerable.
Sex abuse by clergy has been around since the beginning of the Catholic Church. The institutional Church, i.e., the hierarchy, has controlled the responses to victims throughout the centuries. Until now, that is.
When Barbara started SNAP 30 years ago, she and the original members knew they were on their own and that they were up against the largest religious organization on earth, with more money, resources, power and influence than they could ever imagine. But they knew sex abuse was wrong and covering it up and lying to victims was far worse.
They didn’t have any of the resources the official church had, but they knew two things: One, they had truth … what happened to them was real, it was deeply wrong, and that was the truth. Second, they knew that the Church didn’t stop with priests and bishops. The victims were just as much “the Church” as the college of cardinals and the pope. In the eyes of Christ, everyone was on a level playing field.
So, the fundamental difference between victims now and victims 300 years ago is this: Today’s victims have taken charge of their own destiny. They are determining the course of the sex abuse nightmare. They are working to protect children today and in the future. They are in charge, not the bishops or their lawyers and not even the pope.
The fact that there have been so many grand juries, state-sponsored investigations (e.g., Ireland, England, Australia), criminal convictions and civil judgments is evidence that the official Church is no longer in control. If the Church government had been able to sidetrack all of these it would have, but this time around the bishops just don’t have the horses.
I can’t comment on many of the detailed accusations in the plaintiff’s complaint because they are about a lawsuit from Illinois which I know little about. The allegations are also about a number of individual incidents that appear to have taken place between her and the two top leaders of SNAP but certainly not the full organization.
However, I can comment on two issues, one that appears in the complaint and the other that has been in the news coverage.
David Clohessy and Barbara Blaine have resigned their positions at SNAP. Some news reports have alleged there is a connection between the lawsuit and the resignations. A couple of commentators on the events have pronounced that both have resigned in disgrace because of the lawsuit. The only source of information any of them have is from the complaint itself. In fact, David had planned on resigning in 2016, before anyone knew about the suit. Barbara planned her departure before the suit was known, and it was only by coincidence that it was announced at the same time the suit was announced. Both of them had been on the front lines for three decades and well deserved a break from the non-stop stress of their positions.
The other accusation made against SNAP is that its primary goal is to hurt the Catholic Church. They don’t need to hurt the Church. The Church does a better job of hurting itself than anyone could possibly do.
SNAP has been accused of “Catholic-bashing” by just about everyone who disagrees with it or is threatened by it. Exposing world-wide sexual abuse by clergy and cover-up by bishops is not Catholic-bashing. It is telling the truth and exposing an entire culture of sex abuse that is diametrically opposed to everything the Catholic Church stands for.
Those who persist in believing that the victims’ real agenda is combatting Church teaching on various sexual issues are wildly delusional.
The accusation itself is senseless if you think about it for a minute. Consider the bottom line. On one side, we have the Roman Catholic Church, which has the most stringent sexual/morality policies of any religion on earth and teaches that every kind of sexual activity, with the exception of procreative sex by married partners, is mortally sinful—and also insists that these policies can’t even be discussed. On the other side, we have the Church’s leadership exposed for enabling and hiding clerics who have perpetrated the vilest of sexual acts, the molestation of children and the vulnerable. Does that configuration perhaps have some semblance to institutionalized hypocrisy?
Those who claim the victims and SNAP are out to “get the Church” obviously either don’t know or they reject a basic teaching of ecclesiology: The Church is the People of God, not just the clergy, the hierarchy, the devout who are at Mass every Sunday, or those who agree with every teaching and doctrine. The Church also is the victims, their parents, their spouses, and those who try to help them. It’s those who disagree with one or the other teaching or practice, and it’s those who see the layers of institutional corruption, inaction, and narcissism.
It’s pretty obvious there are plenty of people who don’t know the difference between the clerical establishment, the church’s governmental system and the People of God.
SNAP is down right now but it’s far from out. It’s made up of too many brave, committed and courageous people who are in it because they want the Church to be what it’s supposed to be: a true, living Christian community and not a gilded kingdom for the privileged or the nostalgic.
March 5, 2017
Dominican Fr. Thomas Doyle meets with members of pontifical commission on sex abuse / National Catholic Reporter
One of the most severe critics of the church’s handling of the sex abuse scandal spent several days last month briefing members of the Vatican commission appointed to advise Pope Francis on the issue.
“In a phone interview Monday (July 20), Dominican Fr. Thomas Doyle confirmed that he met with four members of the commission in London after he was approached to consult with the group by commission member Marie Collins of Ireland, who was raped by a priest as a youngster.”
By Tom Roberts, National Catholic Reporter — Click here to read the rest of this story.
The Vatican has appointed a bishop known for aggressively investigating cases of sexual abuse to take testimony of clergy alleging sexual misconduct in Scotland’s archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, where Cardinal Keith O’Brien was archbishop until resigning under disgrace in February 2013.
“The archdiocese’s current leader, Archbishop Leo Cushley, announced the investigation in two letters sent to his clergy Tuesday …
“Dominican Fr. Thomas Doyle, a noted canon and civil lawyer widely known for his advocacy and work on behalf of survivors of sexual abuse by clergy, said in a brief interview Thursday he had “never heard” of such an investigation before.
“‘That’s very unusual indeed,’ said Doyle. ‘I’ve never heard of a cardinal being investigated like this by the Holy See.’
“Jesuit Fr. John O’Malley, a noted church historian who has written books on the Second Vatican and Trent Councils and a history of the popes, likewise said he ‘could not recall’ a similar instance of an archdiocese or cardinal being investigated …”
By Joshua J. McElwee, National Catholic Reporter — Click here to read the rest of this story.
A long-time, staunch supporter of clergy sexual abuse survivors, Fr. Thomas Doyle, has presented his response to Pope Francis’ recent comments on clergy sexual abuse in an article today in National Catholic Reporter. Click here to read “Pope Francis on Abuse — A Disappointment.”
Fr. Doyle will facilitate a workshop on surviving clergy sexual abuse called “Survivor Support: Spirituality & Trauma” at the Voice of the Faithful® 2014 Assembly in Hartford, Connecticut, April 5.
A Dominican priest with a doctorate in canon law and five master’s degrees, Fr. Doyle sacrificed a rising career at the Vatican Embassy to become an outspoken advocate for Catholic Church clergy sexual abuse victims. Since 1984, when he became involved with the issue of sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy, he has become an expert in canonical and pastoral dimensions of this problem and has worked directly with victims, their families, accused priests, bishops and other high-ranking Catholic Church officials.
Movement of Catholics Motivated by Clergy Sexual Abuse Scandal Gathers for 2014 Assembly in Hartford, April 5
Voice of the Faithful®, a movement of Catholics started in 2002 at the height of the Boston, Mass., clergy sexual abuse scandal, will hold its “2014 Assembly: Turning Talk into Action” on Saturday, April 5, from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., at the Connecticut Convention Center, Hartford. Registration is $80 per person, and lunch is included.
Guest speakers will be John L. Allen, Jr., and Fr. Thomas Reese. Allen, associate editor for Catholic news and analysis at The Boston Globe and founder of the Vatican beat for National Catholic Reporter, will offer “Perspectives on Pope Francis and a Climate of Change.” Fr. Reese, National Catholic Reporter’s senior analyst, former associate editor of America magazine and author of The Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church, will discuss “Jesuit Spirituality.”
Six afternoon workshops, each presented twice, will help participants “turn talk into action”:
- Parish Level Financial Accountability: Tools for Securing Collections – What simple steps can be taken to secure Sunday collections from basket to bank and all points in between?
- Diocesan Level Financial Accountability: The Montana Hustle Case Study – How one Parish Finance Council doggedly pursued their bishop after their pastor misused funds and how new tools VOTF is developing will help monitor a diocese’s finances.
- Clericalism – What is clericalism and how are the signs recognized? Participants will learn how this primary obstruction to collegial lay participation in the Church could be removed.
- Priestless Parishes: There IS An Answer – How can the doors to optional celibacy be opened for a priesthood embracing the celibate and the married, so availability of the Eucharist is ensured?
- Female Voices – How can women change the equation in a Church that too often positions them only in a mother or helper role? Today’s realities and future potential will be discussed with four women who serve as pastoral associates and in ministry positions.
- Survivor Support: Spirituality & Trauma – Despite sexual trauma and clergy betrayal that leave scars that may involve rejecting church hierarchy and structure, the need for non-clerical spirituality continues, and Fr. Thomas Doyle will explore ways of healing and fulfillment.
An expert panel also will discuss Pathways to Healing and Reform, ways in which participants might help restore the Church. Panel members will include Fr. James Connell, canon lawyer and retired pastor who helped found Catholic Whistleblowers; Prof. Thomas Porter, trial lawyer, mediator, Methodist minister and teacher of restorative justice in Boston University’s School of Theology; and William Casey, coordinator of a restorative justice program at the Northern Virginia Mediation Service and former VOTF board chair.
Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful® is a worldwide movement of faithful Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and increase the laity’s role in governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at www.votf.org.
By Fr. Thomas Doyle, Canon Lawyer and long-time supporter of clergy sexual abuse survivors
The leadership of the Archdiocese of Chicago has a mediocre to poor track record in responding to reports of clergy sexual abuse and their honesty with the public. Cardinal George’s recent statement to the archdiocese (“Accountability and Transparency,” Cardinal Francis George, January 12, 2014, in The Catholic New World) does nothing to change this pattern. This statement was issued to prepare the archdiocese for the release of the files of thirty priests confirmed as sexual abusers. His statement is defensive, misleading and insulting in addition to the fact that it does not reflect the reality of the key issues. A significant part of the statement is devoted to the defense of his mishandling of the Dan McCormack case. The McCormack files are not among those released!
In 1982 the parents of a minor boy reported that former Fr. Bob Mayer had sexually abused their teenaged son. This was under Cardinal Cody’s watch. They reported the abuse to the archdiocese and in return were intimidated and even threatened with excommunication by the chancellor at the time, Fr. J. Richard Keating who later became the bishop of Arlington VA. In 1988 they finally settled for a measly $10,000.00 that didn’t even cover their legal costs. The boy’s mother was not about to succumb to the scare tactics nor was she buying any of the dishonest mumbo-jumbo served up as excuses for their deliberate neglect. She went on to found the Linkup which quickly became one of the two most influential victim support organizations in the world.
Knowing about Mayer’s track record Cardinal Bernardin who had by then succeeded Cardinal Cody, gave him two more assignments as a parish associate and in 1990 made him pastor of a parish in Berwyn IL. During this period the archdiocese received other allegations and ordered Mayer not to be alone with anyone under 21. The infinite wisdom of the archdiocese in imposing this restriction was apparently not infinite enough.
In 1991 Mayer was charged with sexual abuse of a minor girl. When confronted by the angry parishioners, the auxiliary bishop dispatched to deal with the incident lied to them about Mayer’s background. In 1992 Mayer was sentenced to three years in prison. He has since been laicized.
Cardinal Bernardin died in 1996 and Cardinal George replaced him in April 1997. He was ordained bishop in 1990 and served first as bishop of Yakima WA and then as archbishop of Portland OR. Both Portland and Yakima had their share of sexual abuse problems during George’s time. Equally important, he was a member of the U.S. bishops Conference during the years they started to at least talk about clerical sexual abuse. During those years George and his fellow bishops received numerous documents from the conference headquarters that provided detailed information about clergy sexual abuse and the serious risks it posed the Church. He was also present, at least presumably, when a variety of outside experts addressed the assembled bishops on the very serious nature of sexual abuse of children.
These included Fr. Canice Connors, at the time President of St. Luke Institute; Dr. Fred Berlin, Johns Hopkins University, on diagnostic concepts, treatment and ethical considerations; Dr. Frank Valcour, psychiatrist at St. Luke Institute on expectations of treatment; Bishop Harry Flynn on care of victims; Jesuit psychiatrist James Gill on priests, sex and power and Fr. Steve Rossetti on the parish as victim.
During this period Pope John Paul II addressed his first public communication of clergy sex abuse to the U.S. bishops and that same year, 1993, the bishops established their first committee to deal with the problem. The claim voiced by the Cardinal and his auxiliary, Francis Kane, that “had they known then what they know now they would have handled the allegations differently,” has become a mantra for bishops when they are confronted with their disastrous actions. It’s also so worn out that one would think the conference spin-doctors would come up with a fresh excuse.
If Cardinal George read any of the numerous documents sent by the conference and if he was awake for even part of the lectures given at their annual meetings he would certainly have known the serious nature of clergy sexual abuse. So what is it they did not know “then’ that they know now? It’s fairly obvious.
They did not know that their duplicitous defenses and paper-thin excuses would gain them no traction. They did not know that the deference and unquestioned credibility they had taken for granted had eroded. They didn’t know that the victims and their attorneys would not be intimidated or put off by the endless legal delaying tactics. In short, they didn’t know they’d be caught! That’s what they didn’t know then that they surely know now.
The Cardinal has apparently not learned that the excuses from the bishops’ playbook have gone moldy. He invokes clericalism but applies it to the offending priests, claiming that it causes them to try to avoid accountability for their actions. That’s not clericalism, its just plain fear. The cardinal is smart enough to know that the truly egregious examples of clericalism are not provided by the perpetrating priests but by the arrogant bishops and cardinals who insist they are above accountability and entitled to twist the truth to suit their own purposes.
The next excuse, deemed not only historically and sociologically invalid, but actually ludicrous, is borrowed from the second John Jay Report. He tries to shift the blame to the social and cultural trends of the seventies and eighties as if these trends cause sexual dysfunction or hierarchical arrogance.
The Cardinal’s statement really breaks down and falls apart when he gets to his version of the Dan McCormack story. He claims the plaintiff’s attorneys “fashioned” the story and distorted facts that would “mitigate the charge of archdiocesan neglect.” The lawyers didn’t have to do anything to demonstrate archdiocesan, i.e., the Cardinal’s negligence. His documented actions do a sufficient job of doing that without any outside help.
McCormack was first arrested in September 2005. It’s true that the police questioned him but what the cardinal does not tell his readers is that his priest-personnel representative, who was called by McCormack from the police station, was also a civil attorney who told McCormack not to cooperate with the police investigators. He was released but if his ministry was restricted and if he was put under monitoring, this existed only in the Cardinal’s imagination.
The archdiocesan review board eventually received the results of the internal investigation, which came up with sufficient information to allow the board to make a solid recommendation to the Cardinal that McCormack be removed from the parish for the protection of children and not be put back in pastoral ministry. The Cardinal says, “no one involved in investigating the allegation, not even the review board that struggled with their justified concerns, told me they thought he was guilty.” This is nonsense. It was no one’s job to assess guilt or innocence especially the review board. The sole issue was suitability for pastoral ministry and probability that the allegation was true. On that the board members were clear. Guilt or innocence would be determined later.
Against the review board’s urging Cardinal George retained McCormack as pastor. He also kept him on as a regional dean. On January 20, 2006, he was again arrested and it was determined that more children were harmed, primarily because of Cardinal George’s arrogance and willful negligence.
On January 28, 2006 the review board sent the Cardinal a letter. Portions of it tell the real story. “The media statements that the board was unable to reach a decision because they did not have access to the alleged victim or his mother (Sun Times, January 25, 2006), and ‘after the family made the accusation in August, the Archdiocese’s Office of Professional responsibility referred the allegation to the Independent Review Board (Tribune, January 24, 2006), imply that we as a board chose not to act. Clearly this is not the case.”
Contrary to what the Cardinal would like people to believe, the review board made clear recommendations: “These included removing Rev. McCormack from St. Agatha’s and suspending him from ministry pending further criminal investigation.”
The board presented their recommendation to the Cardinal on October 17, 2005. Instead of heeding them he returned McCormack to his pastorate. When questioned about his action at the time of McCormack’s second arrest the Cardinal and the archdiocesan spokesperson came up with a convoluted and obviously misleading story that tried to spread the blame to the archdiocesan process, misunderstandings about national policies and canon law and finally lack of information. In a 2013 deposition he said, concerning the review board, “They gave me that advice, yes, I thought they had not finished the case investigation.”
All pure nonsense. The review board’s letter tells what really happened: “Our recommendations were presented to you on October 17, 2005 … You chose not to act on them, and now we have a situation that reflects very poorly, and unfairly, on the board.” As to George’s excuse that he thought the investigation was incomplete, the review board saw it much differently: “We resent the media implication that the Professional Review Board did not find Rev. Daniel McCormack to be a threat to the safety of children. These reports do not accurately reflect the situation, and we take offense at the lack of truth telling.”
In the second to last paragraph the Cardinal claims that the money for the multi-million dollars in settlements came from revenue ”entirely separate from regular donations or investments.” He then says that the sale of unused properties has provided funds for the settlements. Where exactly does he think the money came from to buy the properties?
Attorney Jeff Anderson knows the detailed history of the Chicago archdiocese’s response better than anyone else. His summary of why things happened the way they did applies to Cardinal George and his predecessors: We see this as a long-standing pattern of top officials of the archdiocese making conscious choices to protect their reputation and to protect the offenders,” he said. “That means conscious choices were made to imperil the children over the years.”
It goes without saying that the Cardinal and the archdiocese would have been much better served had he said nothing. But he didn’t remain silent. The McCormack fiasco was not the result of confusing or bungled procedures, incomplete information. It was the result of the Cardinal’s arrogance, his over-riding concern for his and the Church’s image and worst of all, his disdain for the victims. The attitude that underlies the Cardinal’s statement is not unique to him. This attitude, painfully evident wherever clergy sexual abuse has been reported throughout the Church, shows that the bishops in general have a long, long way to go before their actions began to match up with their promises.
This article previously appeared as a guest column in the Jan. 30, 2014, edition of the NSAC newsletter.
Fr. Doyle will present a workshop entitled “Survivor Support: Spirituality and Trauma” during the Voice of the Faithful® 2014 Assembly in Hartford, Connecticut, April 5, 2014. Click here are information, and click here for information about workshops.