During these five years of intensive media reporting on the scandals inside the Church, some states have extended their criminal and civil statutes of limitations for child sexual abuse. However, other states, like Delaware, are looking at lifting them retroactively. Such measures would allow the government to investigate decades-old cases. One such bill has passed the Delaware Senate and is now before the House.1
In light of this, the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) is vigorously protesting such legislative bills nationwide claiming the measures unfairly penalize Catholics in the pew and favor the agenda of dissident groups inside the Church. Indeed, since organizations like Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) and Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests (SNAP) are actively supporting these retroactive legislative efforts, many Catholics seriously question if there is not more to these bills than meets the eye.2
Beginning in January of last year, the American TFP began publishing the statement: “Is it Fair that the Innocent Pay for the Guilty?” on its website and in newspapers in states where such legislation is being considered.3
In Delaware, The News Journal published a full page advertisement on June 16, 2006. The same TFP statement was republished in the same paper on May 4, 2007. A February statement on the TFP website was directed to the Delaware lawmakers.
On April 4, 2007, Dominican Fr. Thomas Doyle testified for the retroactive lifting of the statute of limitations and delivered a scathing broadside against the TFP statements which he claims are filled with unspecified “half-truths,” “falsehoods,” and “empty assumptions.” Predictably, his attacks centered mainly on the TFP as an organization rather than seriously entering into the merits of the arguments.4
Father Doyle’s Radical Egalitarianism
It is hardly surprising that Father Doyle would be appearing before the Delaware Senate. He has been heavily involved with dissident groups seeking radical changes inside the Church after the sexual abuse scandals.
However, it is ironic that Father Doyle would gratuitously accuse the TFP of having an “erroneous understanding of the meaning and mission of the Catholic Church” and holding positions “contrary to the contemporary [sic] official teaching of the Catholic Church.”5
At the 2002 VOTF convention, Father Doyle delivered an inflammatory speech when accepting the group’s “Priest of Integrity” award. His address succinctly summarized an egalitarian philosophy that called into question the very contemporary governing structures of the Church.
Beyond the very real guilt of individual priests and bishops responsible for the crisis, Father Doyle stated that sexual abuse was only a symptom of “a deeper disease: a deeper and much more pervasive and destructive malady – the fallacy of clericalism.”
Instead of holding these clerics personally responsible for their faults, his solution called for liberating bishops and priests from this supposed “malady” by dismantling the present and official hierarchical Church and returning to what he called “Christ’s radical egalitarianism.”
Father Doyle’s (not Christ’s) “radical egalitarianism” led him to invite the audience “to abandon the magical thinking that sustains the medieval paradigm” of the hierarchical Church. This magical thinking was based on the “magical notion of sacraments and magicians as priests and bishops who administer them.”
Any casual reading of a catechism would reveal that there is something erroneous in this “magical” mischaracterization of the Catholic Church.
Issues with Archbishop
It is also not surprising that the Dominican cleric who has railed against clericalism, would have issues with his own archbishop.
The New York Times reported in 2004 that Father Doyle was removed from his job as an Air Force chaplain in a clash with his archbishop over pastoral issues and a failure to follow guidelines.
In an effort to keep his chaplaincy and a better retirement package, it seems that Father Doyle even unsuccessfully sought a position with the Holy Orthodox Catholic Church, an organization with no ties to the Roman Catholic Church. Dissidents have used the dismissal as a “proof” of a punitive measure carried out by the “institutional” Church for his activism.
Egalitarian concepts pervade Father Doyle’s Delaware testimony. He uses the term “institutional Catholic Church” to refer to Church officials because “by its own self-description and biblical roots, the Church is not defined by the clergy or the power structure, but by the people themselves.” He blames the power structures, not individuals, as responsible for clergy sexual abuse not only now but throughout history. Even the TFP’s book on elites and nobility does not escape Father Doyle’s subversive eye. He does, however, fail to note that the book is merely a commentary on Papal documents and especially the allocutions of Pope Pius XII.
He hurriedly replies to objections with statements that are hardly conclusive. For example, contrary to Father Doyle’s statement that repressed memories are “recognized as authentic by the mental health, especially the psychiatric community,” all mental health professional organizations have agreed that the only way to determine a true from a false memory is with the use of “external” corroboration.
On another note, he denies church services will be interrupted by huge settlements, although he does not mention the fact that some judges are ruling that parish assets in a bankrupt diocese can be used to pay such debts.
He further notes that Church charitable ministries will not suffer because “about 85% of the funding for all Catholic Charities comes from various government sources” – a fact that can be deduced on the Catholic Charities web site. However, the vast ministry of the Church is hardly limited to Catholic Charities.
Father Doyle does miss the central point of the TFP document. The American TFP denies neither the horror of the crimes committed nor the personal responsibility of all involved. It does ask why the vast majority of bishops, priests and laity who were not in any way involved in decades-old cases, and may not have even been born at the time of the alleged crimes, must now be held responsible. The central question found in the title of the TFP statement remains unanswered: “Is it Fair that the Innocent Pay for the Guilty?”
- All quotes from Father Doyle’s testimony in the Senate can be found at http://www.voicefromthedesert.blogspot.com/2007/05/tom-doyle-on-sol-reform-in-delaware.html.
- Cf. Resurrection Tapes, Voice of the Faithful, tape 02VF2. (All quotations from Fr. Doyle are taken directly from the recording purchased at the VOTF event).
- Daniel J. Wakin, “Catholic Priest Who Aids Church Sexual Abuse Victims Loses Job,” The New York Times, April 29, 2004.
- http://www.religioustolerance.org/rmt_intro.htm, also see http://www.rickross.com/reference/false_memories/fsm2.html,
http://www.pep-web.org/document.php?id=ppsy.017.0061a. See Paul R. McHugh, “The End of a Delusion: The Psychiatric Memory Wars Are Over,” The Weekly Standard, May 26, 2003. See also Dr. Elizabeth Loftus and Katherine Ketcham, The Myth of Repressed Memories: False Memories and Allegations of Sexual Abuse (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994).
See also the story of the diocese of St. George’s in eastern Canada that put up all its missions and parishes as collateral to pay for abuse damages. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4188/is_20050510/ai_n14620692.