Sunday, April 4, 2010

Father Tom Doyle--Uncensored

This Australian interview with Fr. Tom Doyle is well worth the read. He doesn't pull many punches. It was conducted over this past weekend. It won't be seen on EWTN.

REPORTER: George Negus - Dateline Australia - SBS

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 the United States, Canada, Ireland, 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. (Cardinal Bertone said it--Benedict's righthand man.)

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.


Not much for me to add. Tom pretty well covered the major ideas.


  1. Hi Colleen,

    I was just talking to my parents in Australia earlier this evening, and my Mum told me about this interview. She was very impressed with what Tom had to say (and with how from the get-go he insisted on being called "Tom" and not "Father").

    Thanks so much for posting the transcript of this interview.



  2. Wonderful! What a joy to read a real human response to this! We KNOW there are good priests out there. But how their labors are made ever so much more difficult by having to labor in a vineyard where the ones "in charge" are wasting resources on fancy clothes (I have to admit I am so sick of the "fashion parade"!) and forgetting to cultivate the soil.

  3. What do you make of the "insider" politics referred to here... "The Pope's Defender"

    The author, Mark Silk, details some of Sodano's previous involvement as a Bush proponent, his relationship with Augusto Pinochet, and his staunch defense of Marcial Maciel.

    What chance does little Luke Skywalker Doyle have against the Imperial stormtroopers of Sodano?


  4. Anonp2p, Tom Doyle knows what he's up against. I think that's why he's dropped any pretense of respect.

    From my perspective, most Catholics don't know what they are up against when it comes to the so-called 'conservative' cabal in the Vatican. If we substitute the word criminal for conservative we get closer to the truth.

  5. Colleen, great interview with Doyle--which I haven't seen elsewhere. He is one of the real heroes of this period of church history.

    I'm intrigued by the badgering, devil's advocate persona Negus assumes here, too (or maybe he's always this way?). It reminds me of Nancy Pelosi being badgered by mainstream media folks who want to inform her that she doesn't understand the Catholic faith.

    Which makes me wonder why men working in the media, who aren't Catholic and don't have much understanding at all of Catholicism, have so much invested in defending the institution?

    Through their power in the media, they've been part of the problem for a long time, insofar as they have kept giving the Vatican and bishops a free pass. And insofar as they assist them in spreading the bizarre message that the pope can't be questioned and the church is the pope and bishops in some unique way.

    (My answer to my implied question about why men working in mainstream media shill for the church in this way: it's about defending male power and privilege--patriarchy.)

  6. Great to read this article Colleen. I wish there were more priest like Tom Doyle. I loved this line - " We need infallibility about as much as a duck hunter needs an accordion."

  7. To my mind the very existence of Doyle and his ethical decision to "stand up" for the victims, regardless of personal cost to himself, is like a powerful modern Parable - the kind which starts out: The Kingdom of Heaven is like... And it is this parable, we might call it the Parable of the Good Follower, that points out to us the difference between "following the Lord" (= ministering to the least among us) and "following the lordly" (= kowtowing to the high and mighty, who hold the reins of worldly power while calling it "canon law").

    Papal sycophants are calling down fire and brimstone on those who question the pope. And our parable points out so clearly where the pope has gone wrong: He chose the path of the "lordly" rather than the path of the "Lord". For he was unwilling to confront the hierarchy when it came to caring for the least among us - the victims of abuse and the people in the pews. He kept silent in the face of Vatican friendliness to abusers. He distanced himself from decisions which failed to honor and protect victims. He claims he was outvoted and overruled. But he failed to speak up against that! And for that there is now a public outcry and public calls for his repentance and even his indictment as part of a cover-up. He failed to cry out on behalf of victims - when the real test came, the test that would have meant his own marginalization (right alongside the marginalization of victims and lay voices).

    Put to the test, Benedict failed it. He kept quiet and sided with the code of secrecy of the Vatican hierarchy. This is his failing! This is why victims and good people of faith cry out now. And will continue to cry out!

    Only the one willing to risk everything in following the Lord (as Fr. Doyle has), one who "serves" as Jesus did, who does not count the cost but considers the poor, the needy, the suffering is helping to bring about the Kingdom of God. And Benedict has failed - failed to honor the Kingdom and failed to build it up. And he fails to see that!!! And thus fails to repent. Yes, he should go, for he stands in the way of the coming of the Kingdom.

    (Be my guest, anyone who cares to lift these words and repeat them.)

  8. TheraP that's my belief as well, that when personal conscience dictated another path Benedict chose the wrong path. Did they have a gun to his head or what?

  9. It was a dead-end gun! Or maybe he was so steeped in promoting the secrecy, that he put the gun to his own head!

    I felt so inspired in that last comment, that I've put it up as a TPM blog. So it will show up on your sidebar.

    I really think people need to understand how conscience works. And how failure of conscience becomes an Achilles heel. Which is precisely what we see happening now. (Bilgrimage has a blog up now that links to postings on conscience, which I'm going to also read - very pertinent.)

    On to read your next post!!!

  10. I've heard Tom Doyle speak as well as spoken with him personally. He's the real deal, no bullshit. One of the extremely few priests which SNAP members have any respect, whatsoever. Including myself. Someday Rome will thank him, ~ after it apologizes to him for that way it has treated a REAL, Christian priest.

  11. Would that we had a lot more Tom Doyles in the church. He sacrificed any opportunity he had for ecclesiastical advancement because he has dedicated himself to telling the truth.

    BTW-my archdiocesan paper had a photo of Randall Terry and one of his minions in front of the Vatican holding signs calling for Nancy Pelosi to be denied Communion because she isn't zealous enough against abortion for Terry.

  12. I'm not surprised to hear of Randall Terry's campaign to deny Communion to Nancy Pelosi.

    The side of the fence on which Randall Terry sits is all about laying burdens on others.

    Yet as he denies Communion, he is truly denied Communion even though he believes he receives; he is denied as he denies.

    Randall Terry is another one who fails to help bring about the Kingdom of God. He is more in line with bringing about the Kingdom of doom and gloom.

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. When Catholic officials start refusing communion to priest-pedophiles, to bishops and others who have facilitated the cover up and failed to follow the mandates of the Charter to Protect Children (including Cardinal George, head of the USCCB), then maybe it will make sense to be refusing communion to someone.

    And Tom? He’s one of the good guys. He is a true hero to victims in the Catholic Church, and I am proud to call him a friend.

  15. Does Australia have an equivalent of Father Tom Doyle i.e. someone who can speak forthrightly and knowledgeably about how the Catholic Church has and continues to handle the sex abuse crisis?

    If not, does anyone have any suggestions as to how Father Doyle might be contacted?

    I would like to interview an Australian alter-ego, or him, for a clergy sex abuse piece I am writing for the Monthly. All help appreciated. Feel free to contact me directly at or 0417114859

  16. why cant we start an american catholic church where prists are allowed to marry. elect a new pope if need be.come up with our own charters, because the church in rome is never going to change no matter what we do or say. they are an extreamly rich and powerful nation who will let nothing or no one get in the way of how they want the world to be.mike quinn

  17. Mike, I think this is going to happen, but it's going to take time and will probably be led by Northern Europe and perhaps Australia in the Western world. The US will not be in the vanguard unless people begin to leave for ecclesial churches instead of just leaving.

    It would also help if our American priests who are fed up with this Vatican were among the leadership in this new movement.

  18. To Anonymous (mike quinn)... there is an American Catholic Church that has been in existence since 1897... it's the Polish National Catholic Church. We have a married priesthood, an elected hierarchy and our Prime Bishop has an 8 year term. Check out and

  19. To xradioguy and mikequinn - yes, there are numerous churches in America (and elsewhere) that protest against the Catholic church's sacraments (Holy Orders is a sacrament), a multitude of protesting churches in fact . . . Protestant churches. I just watched "Deliver Us From Evil" - where "Tom" leads the charge from within. While the reality of abuse and apparent "cover-up" is deeply disgusting (and not exclusive to Catholic priests) it is also sad that such misunderstanding of the sacraments of Christ are accompanying "Tom's" words. Would it not be better if Fr. Doyle could also teach the beauty, goodness, and truth about the sacraments and their importance to our relationship with Jesus.

  20. Anon, I think it's precisely the beauty and truth of the sacraments that is part of what propels Tom to be such an advocate for abuse victims. Somewhere on the Internet, may Richard Sipes blog, is an essay Tom wrote about the betrayal of the brotherhood of priests. In it he very eloquently writes about the very thing you speak of here, how abusive priests have betrayed the fundamental meaning of every sacrament, but most especially Holy Orders and Eucharist and in that process destroyed the soul connection of their victims with the very things which might have helped them heal.

  21. Fr. Thomas Doyle is a true hero. He was the head canon lawyer in the U.S. working with an Italian Cardinal in Washington DC when he began to come face to face with former seminarians, abuse victims of the infamous Fr. Marciel Macial. He had a choice to make - either refer the matters to the Vatican or bury his head in the sand. His boss, the Italiann Cardinal, told him that "if you mess with this, you'll lose your job". Doyle did the right and courageous thing. And, yes, sure enough he lost his job.
    Pope Benedict takes a lot of heat, as he should, however, most of this ugliness happened during JPII's papacy.
    To his credit, Benedict took measures against Macial after he ascended to the papacy. Macial was protected by JPII.

  22. I love this guy. He is one of the only ones with their head out of the sand. Check him out in the documentary Deliver Us From Evil. If only all priests were like him...

  23. Yes, if only.....


  24. Interesting character Fr. Doyle and with a substantial weight of clerical experience. I too am of the conviction that it's time for the Vatican to be turned into a museum and dissolve the catholic monarchy! Don't know what it is but there's something huge on it's way that's going to set things right or is that left?

  25. I don't know about something huge out there coming. I think we need to stop looking for an external event and create an internal combustion of some kind. There is a momentum growing among catholics of integrity, intelligence, education, and commitment to the spirit of Vatican II ... if only we can keep ourselves together as some kind of faith community long enough. Maybe we need to organise support groups for small c catholics, those of us who are not sure we can deal with Rome any more but still see so much value in other elements of our tradition and practice and way of life. Thoughts?