Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"Deliver Us From Evil" - Fr. Tom Doyle, Dominican Priest

Articles by (and about) Dominican priest (and canon lawyer) Fr. Thomas Doyle, a commentator in the documentary, "Deliver Us From Evil."                                                                

Interview with Father Tom Doyle

Shades of grey in a world of apparent absolutes

Right now it's the international news story that's impossible to either avoid or ignore. Early on, it was being reported as an American scandal, then an Irish one, and most recently it's been rocking Europe. Over the years, it's reared its ugly head with almost monotonous regularity in this country. Dateline is talking, of course, about rampant, worldwide sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests. For the Church - its priests, bishops, theVatican and right up to Pope Benedict himself - it's turning into the most damaging crisis not in years, but centuries. Father Thomas Doyle describes himself as "the most reviled priest in the US". The outspoken Dominican has literally devoted his life to the plight of victims of clergy abuse. When I spoke to the outspoken Father Doyle from Washington DC, he insisted I "drop the 'Father' bit - 'Tom' will do!" 

REPORTER:  George Negus

GEORGE NEGUS: Tom Doyle, thanks for talking to us. It could be said, seeing that we're talking at Easter weekend, that this is not going to be a joyful, if you like, happy Easter for most Catholics throughout the world. This holy mess - or unholy mess - that the Church is in at the moment doesn't look like it's going to go away very quickly.

FATHER TOM DOYLE, DOMINICAN PRIEST: It's certainly not going to go away. It's not going to go away, and I think it's the beginning - or it's along the way - of a serious change for the institutional Church, especially for the ruling elite in the Vatican. It's definitely a moment of truth, and among other things it's a sign that the world, the society, is no longer going to show the deference to the Vatican, to the Pope, that they always expected. This is a time for accountability.

GEORGE NEGUS: How do you think that others in the Church - priests, bishops and practising Catholics themselves - react to hearing something like that from yourself? It sounds like you're saying the Catholic Church has been an accident waiting to happen on this whole issue for a while.

FATHER TOM DOYLE: I certainly agree that it's been an accident waiting to happen. How do people react? I think a significant number of Catholics react with denial and anger because what this does is it seriously rocks the source of their spiritual security. They don't like to hear it, but it's true. I mean, the Catholic Church, the men in the Catholic Church, are human beings - they're not supermen and they're not junior gods, they're people. And there's a lot of serious, serious corruption that needs to be taken care of so the Church can really be what it's supposed to be.

GEORGE NEGUS: You include the pontiff himself in that? Because his infallibility is now being questioned. In fact, you're suggesting the foundations of- if you like- the whole Catholic belief system - including the existence of a pope at all - is up for scrutiny.

FATHER TOM DOYLE: Well, what I think is up for scrutiny is the image and the way the papacy has been formed or shaped over the past few centuries. The Church is really supposed to be about Jesus Christ, not about the Pope. And the fact is that, whatever his intentions were, the Pope and the Vatican have been knowledgeable of this incredibly serious, horrendous plague that's been inflicted on the people of the Catholic Church for a long time, and they've done exactly the wrong things - they've tried to cover it up and lie about it to save their own skin, to save their own reputation and image, forgetting what is most important. And what is most important is that these children, the victims - many whom are now adults - they are the ones who need to be taken care of. They're the ones who are important.

GEORGE NEGUS: A lot of people listening to you say those sorts of things - whether they're in the Church hierarchy or the laity - would regard what you're saying as heresy. Are you a lonely voice in the wilderness on this horrible issue, or what?

FATHER TOM DOYLE: No, I'm not a lonely voice in the wilderness. There are at least from my observation in theUnited StatesCanadaIreland, the places I've been involved in, and certainly in Australia


FATHER TOM DOYLE: There's nothing heretical about seeing corruption and calling it to be what it is and demanding that something be done to change it. And if you look at this issue, you're talking about hundreds of thousands of human beings that have been raped and pillaged and devastated by clergy, and to make it worse it's been covered up. That's not heresy, that's truth.

GEORGE NEGUS: You've actually said that the Church itself cannot and will not fix itself. I mean, if the Church can't do it, who's got the job of fixing up this dysfunctional Church, as you've described it?

FATHER TOM DOYLE: Well, I want to just make a distinction. There's the institutional Church, which is the governing structure - the bishops, the priests and so on - that's not the whole Church by a long shot. The Church is the people. Whether they're in there on Sunday or not, they're the people, and that's what will fix it - it will be the people themselves and it will happen because of pressure from outside, from the courts, the media. Generally, societal outrage will force some change. The system can't fix itself. If it could have done that, it would have done it, but it can't, because it's a monarchy and the whole concept of a monarchy in the 21st century is completely anachronistic. And so that will start, I think, the change - it will have to - because the system is changing, the Church itself is changing drastically, and many of the people at the top are afraid to admit that because that means their power structure is going to change.

GEORGE NEGUS: Are you talking about actually some sort of movement to eliminate not the Pope personally, but the whole idea of a pope and the Vatican and infallibility and these sorts of things?

FATHER TOM DOYLE: We need infallibility about as much as a duck hunter needs an accordion. But I would say that what's necessary is not so much the Pope or the Vatican itself, it's how they do business - it's how they see themselves. They see themselves as some sort of an elite that's better than everyone, above everyone, and they're engulfed in secrecy and mystery and everything else. And the Church is a community of people


FATHER TOM DOYLE: and there should be complete openness in the concept that they're serving, not running.

GEORGE NEGUS: The Pope has made an apology of sorts in the Irish situation. There are cases in the courts as we speak, people talking about inquiries internally, etc. But could you react to this statement for me, Tom? This is from the Vatican Secretary of State in Rome. "The Church still enjoys great confidence on the part of the faithful, it's just that someone is trying to undermine that, but the Church has special help from above." Now, isn't that a suggestion that God actually approves of what's been going on, including the child sex abuse?

FATHER TOM DOYLE: That's a nonsensical statement. First off, to presume that they have all this support and backing, who are they talking to - each other? These men are completely out of touch with reality and they've been out of touch - they only talk to one another. Secondly, to claim that God approves this, that's heresy. The statement itself is very offensive.

GEORGE NEGUS: But that's the Vatican! That's a statement from the Vatican. If I could interrupt you there, Tom - that's actually an official Vatican spokesman saying that the Church gets special help from above. Big call!

FATHER TOM DOYLE: I know - I realise who said it - and I think that's very presumptuous because the Church is the people, it's not just them. Maybe 'above' is helping the victims and their supporters to bring accountability - maybe that's where the help is coming from. So, it's a turkey shoot - you know, you throw it up and "Whose side is God on?" I don't think that's the point at all. The point is - what is right and what is wrong? Hiding the abuse of children is wrong, period.

GEORGE NEGUS: Can we raise the thorny subject of celibacy and how much that is an issue in this whole situation, because to non-Catholics it certainly is an issue that maybe celibacy is at the bottom of all of this, that it's the sort of behaviour that, if you like, leads to paedophilia and child sex abuse, etc.

FATHER TOM DOYLE: There's a lot of misunderstanding about celibacy and I have to say that being a celibate priest, being celibate, does not turn you into a sexually dysfunctional man - it doesn't make you a paedophile or a pervert or something of that nature. But the relationship of mandatory celibacy to this issue is much more complex and it's this, I believe, or part of it - that celibacy, the preparation for celibacy, the training and to convince a man that celibacy is acceptable, means you have to convince him that there's something secondary in importance about relationships, about marriage, about women and about family. Celibacy also has depended in the past on a very distorted notion of human sexuality - that it's something you can take and put it outside of yourself, turn it on and turn it off. And so what you had was men growing up with this incredible fear - any sexual thought, anything, was a mortal sin and you'd go to Hell - which is fairly unrealistic and it's certainly not very reflective of what a human being is.

GEORGE NEGUS: It sounds like you're saying if the Church has a close look at itself in the way you're suggesting it has to almost pull the whole institution apart and start all over again.

FATHER TOM DOYLE: Well, I think there are a lot of things that they should take a close look at - celibacy being one of them. They're deathly afraid to look at the women priests issue because they claim that Jesus Christ only ordained men. Well, that's a long short there - to presume that Christ had an ordination ceremony at the Last Supper, you know, that's a bit of a stretch.

GEORGE NEGUS: It's a new version of history, that's for sure.

FATHER TOM DOYLE: Well, definitely a new version of history.

GEORGE NEGUS: People are asking questions like, "Will we see priests and bishops end up in jail as a result of this?" "Will we see the Pope having to consider resignation?" But you've actually said, "Punishing the perpetrators is completely missing the forest standing behind the trees. The clerical culture entwined with the institution needs to be fearlessly examined and dismantled as we know it." Isn't that more-or-less what I was saying before - knocking the whole edifice down and rebuilding? You're questioning almost the very basis of Catholicism.

FATHER TOM DOYLE: It's unfortunate that it takes this type of destruction to move it towards change, but that's what has to happen, I believe. I'm not one anymore to mince words and be diplomatic and fart around with this. I mean, this is it. I've spent 25 years talking to people who've been ruined because of this stuff, and you know, the whole damn thing, they ought to sell the Vatican to the Mormons or to Disney or something and go out and start all over again.

GEORGE NEGUS: Tom Doyle, it's great to talk to you - fascinating, actually - and we'll stay in touch. Thanks again.

FATHER TOM DOYLE: Great. Thank you.

GEORGE NEGUS:  Other than that, the mild-mannered Father Tom Doyle has nothing to say on an issue that's clearly not about to suddenly disappear off the Catholic Church's agenda.


Canon Law Expert: Cardinal Bevilacqua Obstructed Justice

A priest who is an expert on canon law testified Thursday that in his opinion, the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua was guilty of obstructing justice when he ordered the shredding of a confidential memo in 1994 that listed 35 archdiocese priests accused of sex abuse.

Father Thomas P. Doyle, an outspoken advocate for victims of clerical sex abuse, was asked on cross-examination what advice he would have given Bevilacqua.

"He's got a list of 35 men who are sexually abusing children, and he's going to shred it?" Doyle asked incredulously.

"No way," Father Doyle told the jury. "That's like obstruction of justice."

Father Doyle said his advice to Bevilacqua, who died Jan. 31, would have been to take off his gold ring and bishop's robes, and go visit the families of the victims. Instead, by shredding the memo, Doyle said, the cardinal destroyed evidence.

"Those are actual records that must be investigated, those are victims in need of pastoral care," Father Doyle testified.

Father Doyle was called as an expert witness by the prosecution in the ongoing Archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse trial, which finished its third week of testimony Thursday. The shredded memo that he was asked about was compiled by Msgr. William J. Lynn, the archdiocese's former secretary for the clergy. Msgr. Lynn is the first Catholic administrator in the country to be charged with conspiring to endanger the welfare of children, in connection with the pedophile priest scandal.

Four copies of the Lynn memo were shredded according to the cardinal's instructions. But a former bishop, Msgr. James Molloy, kept a fifth copy in a file cabinet on the 12th floor, along with a handwritten memo. The memo described how Molloy destroyed the other memos according to the cardinal's instructions, but kept one copy for his own protection. The memo was discovered in a search after Molloy's death in 2006, by archdiocese lawyers. But despite a number of subpoenas, the memo wasn't turned over to the prosecution until earlier this year.

Father Doyle said the problem of clerical sex abuse isn't new. It's gained prominence in recent years because "these children are now being believed by their parents," the priest told the jury.

Doyle was a folksy expert on the witness stand, wearing a "Bucky Badger" tie pin to commemorate the  mascot of his alma mater, the University of Wisconsin. When asked to explain canon law, the priest said to Catholics a canon was not a weapon, but a rule of law based on the greek word kanon, which meant "a rule or a straight line."

When asked to define limbo, the afterlife destination of unbaptized babies, Doyle said limbo was "minimum security hell."

Doyle told the jury that Catholics believe priests to be Christ's representatives on earth. Priests have the power to dispense sacraments, hear confessions, and forgive sins. "For Catholics, a priest is the gatekeeper to heaven," Father Doyle said.

Doyle testified that the archbishop of Philadelphia is required by canon law to investigate allegations of misconduct, even if anonymous. "This whole thing has to be documented from start to finish," Doyle told the jury. And if there is credible evidence of a single episode of sexual abuse of a minor, a priest according to canon law is supposed to be "removed permanently from ecclesiastical ministry," Father Doyle testified.

Father Doyle said it would be "inappropriate" for church officials to base their personnel decisions entirely on the psychological evaluations of priests accused of abuse. Doyle's opinion was in stark contrast to evidence presented so far in the sex abuse trial.

The archdiocese's secret archive files show that priests who were repeat offenders were frequently not diagnosed as pedophiles, even if they had confessed to molesting children. Instead, the abuser priests were often transferred to new assignments, without notice to parents or children.

On cross-examination, Alan J. Tauber, a lawyer for Msgr. Lynn, sought to show that his client was just a cog in the wheel. Tauber compared the late archbishop Bevilacqua to a king or a monarch.

"A bishop makes a lot of decisions for which there is no oversight?" the defense lawyer asked the witness.

"Practically speaking, this is fair to say," Father Doyle responded.

Tauber referred to Father Doyle's grand jury testimony, where the priest described the late Cardinal Bevilacqua as a "micro-manager," and one of the most authoritarian bishops in the country.

Father Doyle did not back away from the quotes.

"He [Bevilcacqua] is the only one who can make appointments?"Tauber asked.

"Yeah," Father Doyle agreed.

But on redirect, Assistant District Attorney Blessington zeroed in on Lynn's role as the late cardinal's secretary for the clergy. If you work for the cardinal, and he tells you to do something illegal, what should you do, the priest was asked.

"You're responsible for what you do," Father Doyle testified. The cardinal, he said, was "not a puppet master."

And who is the archbishop supposed to emulate, Blessington asked. Isn't it Jesus?

"Yes, that's what it's all about," Father Doyle said. "We were Christians before Catholics."

Blessington brought up  Father Edward V. Avery, a defendant in the case who, on the eve of trial, pleaded guilty to raping a 10-year-old, and was sentenced to a prison term of between 2 1/2 to 5 years.

What if you're the secretary for clergy, Blessington said, and you go into the secret archive files regarding Father Avery, and you discover multiple allegations of sexual abuse of minors. Shouldn't you decide, "You don't put that guy near kids?"

"Objection," said a defense attorney.

"Sustained," said the judge.

The trial resumes Monday at 9:15 a.m. in Courtroom 304 at the Criminal Justice Center.



May. 26, 2010

Fr. Thomas P. Doyle (CNS/Lisa Kessler)
Excommunication is the most severe penalty a Catholic can incur. It is so severe that it is not easily presumed or imposed. In the case of the sister from Phoenix who was declared excommunicated by Thomas Olmsted, the bishop of the Phoenix diocese, the issue is far from clear as it has been presented by the diocese in their Question and Answer statement issued on May 18, 2010. This tragic case involves the convergence of canon law, moral theology, medical ethics, and medical science, all of which should have been carefully considered before any prudential decisions were made by anyone directly involved.
The basic elements of the case have been widely reported in the Catholic and secular media: a religious sister who was directly involved in the decision making process to terminate an eleven week pregnancy in order to save the mother's life, was presumed by the local bishop to have fulfilled all of the requisites for the canonical crime of abortion. Abortion is one of seven crimes included in the Code of canon law that result in immediate and automatic excommunication. The Code contains a number of acts that are deemed to be crimes. All but seven require a process to prove guilt, convict and impose a sentence. Automatic excommunication, calledlatae sententiae in canonical language, means that as soon as the person performs the act, he or she is excommunicated.
An automatic excommunication may not be known by many and in some cases the person presumed to have committed the crime may not even be aware of the penalty. There is an added dimension to an automatic excommunication when the bishop formally declares it to have been incurred by the person. Thus the crime and the penalty become publicly known. The most dramatic and serious difference is that once the penalty is declared the person can be publicly prevented from receiving a sacrament or participating in a liturgical service. Declaration of an automatic penalty is not required by canon law and is left to the discretion of the bishop. In this case, the bishop declared the automatic excommunication. Canon law also requires that members of religious communities who are excommunicated for specific crimes, including abortion, be dismissed from their order.
On the surface it all seems clear, cut and dried, but it is not. The Catholic church has long realized that excommunication can be the ecclesiastical equivalent of a deadly weapon. Consequently canon law contains a number of requisite conditions that must be taken into consideration before an excommunication is declared (as in this case) or imposed as in most other cases of ecclesiastical crimes.

Public or private resolution?
The primary purpose of excommunication is not punishment but correction. Consequently canon law states that the imposition or declaration of a penalty is a last resort. The bishop is obligated to try various pastoral means including fraternal correction and rebuke to achieve the purposes of the excommunication, namely the reparation of scandal, the restoration of justice and the reformation of the person who has committed the crime. Once an abortion is performed it cannot be undone, which means that the goals of pastoral intervention must be altered to fit the situation. In this and similar cases one must ask whether, apart from the factor of punishment, a greater good will be served by a public declaration of the excommunication or by a private resolution of the case.
No punishment may be imposed or presumed unless the crime is imputable to the person. This means that he or she must deliberately intend to violate the law and must do so with complete freedom of the will. Before imposing or declaring a penalty a bishop, for the sake of justice and in keeping with the canon that states that penal laws are interpreted strictly, must be certain that the factors required for the malicious violation of the law are present. This is done in the context of two vitally important canons. One (c. 1323) lists seven factors or circumstances that completely remove immutability meaning that there is no crime even though there was an act that would otherwise constitute a crime. The other (c. 1324) lists ten factors that diminish immutability. This means that if one or the other is present, there is still responsibility for the commission of the crime, but the most severe penalty must be tempered, reduced or replaced with something far less severe. These basic concepts should sound familiar to civil lawyers or to anyone acquainted with the civil law approach to determining degrees of guilt.
If an excommunication is imposed or declared before the bishop has objectively determined that it is not only the last possible resort but also that the person really acted with complete freedom (internal and external) and full awareness, then there exists the potential for a miscarriage of justice. This is no small matter when excommunication is the penalty. Getting to this point absolutely requires serene objectivity on the part of the bishop.
One of the factors that influences imputability stands out as applicable and relevant in the Phoenix case. The section is from canon 1324 and reads as follows:

"One who violates a law or precept is not exempt from a penalty but the penalty set by law must be tempered or a penance substituted if the offense was committed: …5. By a person who was forced through grave fear, even if only relatively grave, or through necessity or serious inconvenience, if the offense was intrinsically evil.

The third paragraph of the same canon reads: "An accused is not bound by an automatic penalty (latae sententiae) in the presence of any of the circumstances enumerated in par. 1."
The key words are "…through necessity or grave inconvenience." To understand the applicability of this canon I did two things: first, I searched through several commentaries on this canon from the 1983 Code of canon law and on the similar canon (c. 2205, par. 3) and equally important, I had a long conversation with a medical professional who had been in a situation almost identical to that of the sister in Phoenix.
Let us presume that the religious sister knew that an abortion is not only intrinsically wrong but punishable by excommunication. Yet she was faced with a situation of having to participate in a decision which would preserve, at least temporarily, the eleven week old life in the womb but would almost certainly end in the eventual termination of that life and the life of the mother. On the other hand the procedure would terminate the life of the fetus but greatly enhance the chances of survival of the 27-year-old mother of four other children.

'Moral powerlessness'
This certainly appears to be a case of necessity as envisioned by the Code. One of the respected commentators on canon 2205, 2, Gommar Michiels, writing in 1929 said:

"In penal law necessity may be defined as that objective condition of things, brought about in any manner whatsoever, in which an act that according to penal law is to be placed or omitted cannot so be placed or omitted because of an absolute or moral powerlessness, whether this latter be physical or spiritual." (De Delictis et Poenis, I, 199).

In less dense language, this means that the condition of things, that is, the combination of the pregnancy and the critical heart condition leading to a nearly 100 percent chance of the mother's death, and the absence of any other medical procedure that would enhance the mother's chances, presented a situation where the sister and possibly the others in the decision making process, were in a situation described by the canonical commentators as "moral powerlessness." (Information about the case obtained from the "Fact Sheet" prepared by Catholic Healthcare West and found on theNational Catholic Reporter Web site.)
This is a situation the commentators refer to as "extreme moral physical necessity." This arises when there is an absolutely necessary choice between the violation of the law on the one hand and grave physical hardship such as damage to health or even death on the other. The necessity was extreme because it placed the sister, the mother and the attending medical personnel in a situation wherein the threat to life could not have been avoided without the transgression of the law. (Cf. Wernz-Vidal, Ius Canonicum, VII, 107.)
The sister and the others involved in this case evaluated their options within the context of number 47 of the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, published by the U.S. Catholic Bishops' Conference:

"Operations, treatments, and medications that have as their direct purpose the cure of a proportionately serious pathological condition of a pregnant woman are permitted when they cannot be safely postponed until the unborn child is viable, even if they will result in the death of the unborn child."

They were clearly placed in a no-win situation. A clear-cut choice was simply not possible. The risk of mortality was high no matter what choice was made and in the end the absolute adherence to the law of the Code meant the almost certain death of the infant in the womb and the mother.
The above-cited Fact Sheet clearly described the complexity of the case and the process that led to the decision. This statement included the two applicable norms from the Ethical and Religious Directives. Norm 45 is clear and presents the black and white dimension: "Abortion (that is, the directly intended termination of pregnancy before viability or the directly intended destruction of a viable fetus) is never permitted. Every procedure whose sole immediate effect is the termination of pregnancy before viability is an abortion."
Norm 47 interjects a shade of grey that pits the absolute up against the often painful, uncontrollable and unpredictable circumstances of life. The canonical criminality of the choice made by the sister and the others is by no means as cut and dried as it may have seemed to the bishop and his advisors. The canon law on abortion is quite clear. What is also clear is that the same canon law recognizes that real-life situations can be agonizingly complex. In this case the full recitation of the facts (to use the stark canonical terminology) seem to argue for the protection of the sister, the mother and all others involved from the harshness of excommunication rather than for their condemnation.
My canon law professor from seminary days regularly insisted that we always remember that the purpose of canon law is to "save souls." The soul of the unborn child was not the only one to be protected. There were six others directly impacted by whatever decision was made: the mother, her husband and their four children. My professor was right. What is also obvious is that it is far easier to presume guilt than it is to use the law to save rather than condemn.
[Tom Doyle is a priest, canon lawyer, addictions therapist and long-time supporter of justice and compassion for clergy sex abuse victims.]

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