Friday, May 22, 2009

Fr. Thomas Doyle Issues A Challenge

Father Tom Doyle's article is hard hitting, but it needs to be heard. Catholicism would be well served if more clergy would voice their true horror at what is and has been done to the People of God in order to protect the prestige and power of the clerical priesthood.

By Father Thomas Doyle as posted at The National Catholic Reporter

"Thus far the reaction to the publication of the Report of the Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse has been quite consistent. Most who have read news accounts of the 30 page executive summary have expressed shock, horror, disgust, anger and other like sentiments. Presuming that the executive summary is exactly that, a summary one can therefore presume that the full report is more of the same horror except in more detail.

This report was the end result of a long investigation conducted by a government agency and headed by Justice Sean Ryan. The report's credibility, indeed its very power lies with its source. The lengthy investigation was not a private endeavor and certainly not sponsored by the Roman Catholic Church. As if this report is not mind and soul blowing enough, it will be followed on later this summer by the report of the inquiry into sexual abuse by clergy of the Archdiocese of Dublin.

The Roman Catholic Church has been intimately enmeshed with every facet of life in the Republic of Ireland. The Church controlled the education, health care and welfare systems. Every one of the institutions probed by the Commission was run by a Catholic religious order, the two predominant ones being the Christian Brothers and the Sisters of Mercy. Both orders are headquartered in Rome and in Ireland, the activities of each has been subject to the oversight and authority of the Irish Bishops. The young children who are described in the report as the victims of all types of horrific abuse are members of what the Second Vatican Council referred to as the "People of God." (One of the anecdotes that really got to me, was survivors talking about one nun throwing the food scraps meant for the convent's pigs, to the children to supplement their meals. The survivors reflected on this as a genuine act of kindness.)

The vicious sexual, physical, emotional and spiritual devastation inflicted upon these children was not accidental. It was systemic. It was part of the everyday life and indeed deeply ingrained in the very culture of the childcare system in Catholic Ireland.

The intellects and emotions of decent people, of committed Christians and especially of devoted Catholics cannot truly process the unbelievable reality presented in this report. The sadistic world of these institutions is not that of some crazed secular dictatorship. It is not the world of an uncivilized tribal culture that ravaged the weak in ages long past. This report describes a world created and sustained by the Roman Catholic Church. The horrors inflicted on these helpless, trapped children -- rapes, beatings, molestation, starvation, isolation -- all were inflicted by men and women who had vowed themselves to the service of people in the name of Christ's love.

The report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse is not unique though it may well be the most shocking example of the reality of such a culture of evil. In the past two decades over two dozen reports have described physical and sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults by Catholic clergy and religious. Among the more shocking have been a series of reports submitted to the Vatican between 1994 and 1998 revealing sexual exploitation of religious women in Africa by African priests. These reports remained largely unknown until they were brought to light by the National Catholic Reporter in 2001. Other reports have opened the doors to the secret world of clergy sexual abuse in the U.S. and elsewhere. The report of the Winter Commission about rampant sexual abuse at Mount Cashel, the Christian Brothers orphanage in Newfoundland and the report of the Philadelphia Grand Jury investigation stand out as examples not only of the depravity but of the institutionalized cover-up.

Revelations of various forms of abuse by Catholic religious and clerics all have common elements. Likewise, they evoke responses from the institutional leadership that are common to all examples of abuse and consistent in their nature. Most disturbing is the certain knowledge that the vicious abuse, in Ireland and elsewhere, is not accidental nor isolated and it is never unknown to Church authorities. The Church's authorities, from the pope himself down to the local bishops and religious superiors have known about this unbelievable culture of abuse and have done nothing.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan referred to the Church as a “Loving Mother” when he spoke at his installation Mass in New York. In light of the facts disclosed in the Irish report as well as the information revealed about countless other cases of abuse, such a description of the Church is not only absurd, but insulting to the countless people whose belief and trust in the hierarchy and clergy has been betrayed. (Destroyed might be the better word. It goes way beyond betrayal.)

The official reaction is predictable. Denial, minimization, blame shifting and finally limited acknowledgment followed by carefully nuanced “apologies” has been the standard fare. At no time has the leadership of any part of the institutional Church ever owned up to any systemic accountability. The standard responses are totally unacceptable because they are devious and irrelevant. Those who still hold to the institutional Church as their source of emotional security may well bray about anti-Catholicism, media sensationalism and exaggeration of what they claim to be an aberration. Such responses are mindless but far worse, they inflict even more pain on the thousands whose lives have been violated.

The Church cannot and will not fix itself. The very reality of the systemic abuse in the Irish institutions (and elsewhere as well) reveals a deep disdain for people by those charged with leading the Church. There has been an abandonment of the fundamental values that are supposed to vivify the Church if indeed these values were ever really internalized by many in positions of power. There is something radically wrong with the institutional Catholic Church. This is painfully obvious because it allows systemic abuse and radical dishonesty to coexist with its self-proclaimed identity as the Kingdom of God on earth.

The institutional Church is defensively changing its approach to the systematic abuse all too slowly and only because it is forced to do so by external forces it cannot control. The Irish government commission is one and the U.S. legal system is another. No amount of bureaucratic programs, pious apologies, rhetorical hand wringing and effusive promises of future change will make the difference. The problem is more than the widespread abuse itself. Punishing the perpetrators is completely missing the forest standing behind the trees. The clerical culture intertwined with the institution needs to be fearlessly examined and dismantled as we know it. It has wrought far too much destruction and murdered too many souls to be tolerated for another generation.

Catholics have a profound obligation in charity and justice to the countless victims of all forms of abuse. They have an obligation to believers of all kinds everywhere. They must ceaselessly do all that can be done to free the Christian/Catholic community from the toxic control of the clericalized institutional structure so that once more the Church will be identified not with an anachronistic and self-serving monarchy but with the Body of Christ.
There's not much more to add to what Father Doyle has written. The institution will not voluntarily change itself. I does look however, that it will voluntarily take itself down a spiritual toilet to total irrelevance.
This story may be coming out of Ireland, but the arrogant abusive attitude towards children and other powerless members of humanity, was and is universal. The clericalized institutional structure is surely one baby that should be thrown out with the bath water.


  1. Colleen, this is so darn sad. I just read Tom Doyle's article on NCR and then came here. Fr Doyle brings out an important point:

    "The very reality of the systemic abuse in the Irish institutions (and elsewhere as well) reveals a deep disdain for people by those charged with leading the Church."

    This "deep disdain for people" is the reason many have left the Catholic Church and why there are fewer entering the priesthood and convents. The hierarchy might have thought they could get away with abuse of this sort but word definitely got out over the years. They destroyed the Church themselves, but some preach and blame and point the finger at anyone else they deeply disdain, such as liberals, women and gays.

  2. I agree in every way with Fr. Doyle's comments. But how do we rid ourselves of this? How do the laity and true religious bring about the reform - radical reform - that must happen? I have written letters, spoken at meetings. But - I see nothing really changing. It is frustrating.

    I would also like to say that abuse of a horrifying nature is not restricted to Catholic institutions. Remember Willowbrook? The Ancora deaths in NJ? I suspect hidden deep in our culure - not just the culture of the Church - is this disdain for the marginalized which permits such atrocities. Perhpas it is not just the Church but our society which must be called to task.

  3. Anonymous, with God all things are possible. People who care deeply will get deeply frustrated. That is why we need each other.

    Let me share with you some inspiration. I was inspired this morning by the artist John August Swanson. There is an article about him on NCRonline. Here is the link to John's work entitled David & Goliath:

    I especially needed this reminder of this story today and really appreciate what the artist had to say about the story of David & Goliath.

  4. Are there any photos of Pope Benedict where he does not look like satan incarnate?

    Anonymous, you ask how do we? Very simple, Each time each one of us speak or write that this behavior is totally unacceptable, we create the resolution. Each time a lawsuit is filed, each time a priest is prosecuted, we create the resolution. Each time one of us stops supporting the church, we create the resolution. A church cannot survive without parishoners.

    In the same way, each time the leadership attempts to use a group as a scapegoat, they create the resolution as well.

    The catholic church as it has existed for centuries is exposed and dying. It has failed to recognize the parallels between itself and the scribes and pharisees of Jesus' day, and in its refusal to acknowledge its true nature, it has created the mechanism of its destruction, just as the scribes and pharisees did.

    The leadership of the catholic church has been so far out of integrity with Christ's teachings for so long, that there really is no hope for its survival in its current form. Catholicism will survive, but the RCC of Rome will not. Jesus has abandoned the RCC of Rome, just as he did the scribes and pharisees of his day.

  5. Feminists and secularists are many mulitple times more corrupt and abusive than RCC personnel. They too deny their guilt and sins, and deny their evil where it is visible for all to see.

  6. Except, feminists and secularist don't claim to be operating 'in persona christi' and covering their actions in the mantle of Christ. This is a big difference.

  7. Over the last week in November '09, there has been an update to the Priest Abuse Scandal in Ireland, called the Dublin Archdiocese Report. In it, the deeds of past, deliberate coverups by the Cardinals of Ireland have been publically exposed. What is the excuse for decades of denial and lies, now? It is an old ploy of the Hierarchy called, "Mental Reservation," meaning that a cleric can lie if it protects the reputation of our Holy Mother the Church, the Vatican, the Hierarchy, the clergy, etc.

    Now, people around the world are calling for the World Court of the United Nations to investigate the Vatican and her role in orchestrating the coverups, through an old directive from the Vatican known as "Crimen Solicitationis."

    It's about time! If the Vatican is a Sovereign State, as She claims, then her leaders should be held accountable, right up to and including the Chair of St. Peter.



  8. Jeannie, my recent posts have dealt with the Murphy report and the use of 'mental reservation'. Your information on the World Court is new to me. Wow, it would be something else if this made real headway.

    I have often wondered why Interpol hasn't been more active in this pedophelia thing because the Vatican City States and Rome based religious mother houses are being used to harbor dozens of internationally wanted pedophiles. Thanks for the comment.

  9. Just tonight Dutch tv showed us a documentary about misbehaviour and sexual abuse in the American Catholic church.

    Not even a catholic myselve, I wish to express my sympathy to fr. Thomas Doyle and all victims he stands for.

    I wish the Vatican one day soon will recognize that it's on earth to spread the words of Jezus.
    If the Vatican system does not step down to earth and its people in need for help, it's time to say goodbye.
    NOT to Jezus, but to the Vatican.
    And to all victims I like to say: keep your faith in Jezus.