Thomas P Doyle
August 20, 2008
Thomas Doyle

            This past Monday I testified at a trial.  The diocese had ample notice that the abuser-priest was a danger to minors.  The former bishop of the diocese being sued had received this priest from another diocese and that diocese in turn had received him from his home diocese.  In the first diocese the bishop kicked him out after he had sexually assaulted boys in three out of the four parishes to which he had been assigned.  He found a new bishop who took him in.  In that diocese he sexually assaulted boys in each of the four parishes to which he had been assigned.  That bishop gave him his walking papers and he ended up in the last diocese.  There he sexually assaulted boys in the first two parishes to which he was assigned and was sent to a third.  That’s where he assaulted the plaintiff in the case.  The bishop knew all of this but, to use his own words, he was willing “to take the risk.”  Sounds like a slam dunk doesn’t it?  It gets better.  This is the third trial for this diocese.  They have already lost in two.  They are about 20 more projected for victims of the same priest.

            The trials are a nightmare for the victims and their families.  They are expensive as well.  The lawyers who represent the diocese get paid one way or the other.  The lawyers for the victims are on contingency.  The church lawyers’ fees come from the donations of the people.  If the jury gives a big award, some people will get bent out of shape and complain about how much the payments to the victims cost the diocese.  They really ought to complain about the payments to the lawyers which are totally unnecessary.

            I learned during a break that the little guy in the black outfit sitting at the corner of the defense table was the bishop.  I also learned that neither he nor any of his predecessors had ever reached out to any of the victims.  Throughout the day as I sat on the stand and answered questions I looked at the victim on my left and the bishop on my right. What was wrong with that picture?  Simple!  The bishop was in the wrong place.  He should have been sitting next to the victim offering support, sympathy, kindness and hope. Instead he was on the other side, probably worrying that the testimony was not making his diocese look too good.

            At one point the diocesan lawyer made a big deal out of the fees that I am supposed to receive as an expert witness.  He left out the part that an expert has to take fees or he isn’t an expert.  He didn’t seem too interested when I responded to a question from the plaintiff attorney in which I shared that I have given away most of the fees I have ever received.  Do lawyers who represent the Church work for nothing?  Hardly!

            So...what does all of this have to do with the pope?  Plenty!  Benedict XVI made a big splash in the U.S. and in Australia with all of his remarks about clergy sex abuse and with the personal encounters he had with a small group of victims in each country.  A lot of people announced that the Pope, the Vatican and the hierarchy have finally “gotten it.”  After all, Pope John Paul II not only did nothing, but in the few statements he made he tried to shift the blame to anyone and anything from where it ought to be.

            Not so with Benedict.  First, he fired the notorious Marcel Maciel Degollado, the founder of the cult-like outfit called the Legion of Christ.  Then he came to the US and said he was ashamed at the way things had gone.  He also said similar things in Australia.  He may feel personally ashamed and scandalized but that doesn’t mean a thing unless he does something and thus far he has done nothing.  That’s where this trial comes in.  In spite of the pope’s appearance of compassion it has not rubbed off on the bishops.  The trial I was at should have been stopped before it started.  The bishop should have picked up on the pope’s words and shown concern for the victims instead of himself and his bureaucracy and his diocese’s money. 

            The pope should have taken action but he didn’t.  The major fallacy with the hierarchy and the pope is that they think that their words always make things happen.  They think that a statement or a gesture or even a liturgy such as a healing Mass, are all they have to do.  Even thinking in that way is a gross insult to those hurt by the church.  People are sick to death of the highly nuanced statements that keep coming out of the public relations departments of the Church because they are not only empty.  They are dishonest and an insult to the intelligence and integrity of decent and honest men and women. 

The pope could have:

1. Issued an order to all bishops to stop all legal actions and start treating the victims with care and compassion instead of treating them like the enemy.

2. Ordered the bishops to stop building cathedrals and monuments to themselves and use the funds for programs to help victims and their families.

3. Invited a few hundred victims to the Vatican at his expense to meet with he and the other Vatican big shots so as to find out first hand just how horrendous this whole nightmare has been.

4. Publicly fired some of the more notorious cardinals starting with Cardinals George, Egan, Mahony, Pell and Levada.  Once the top guys are gone then start on the next level, namely the bishops.

5. Stopped persecuting theologians and scholars who are trying to figure out some of the blatant contradictions on Church teaching and practice, starting with celibacy and the whole bizarre theology of human sexuality.

6. Sent sizeable personal donations to SNAP, NAPSAC and ROAD TO RECOVERY.

            I think we all know that all of the above have no chance of happening.  Perhaps the most realistic thing we can hope for is an awakening by isolated bishops here and there.  We can also continue to hope that lay Catholics, who persist in looking at the hierarchical system through rose-colored glasses, will start to grow up, get past their denial and see reality for what it is.  The recent popes and the hierarchy have enabled the most horrendous spiritual and emotional destruction of vulnerable people in a thousand years.  Thus far they are doing precious little to make it right.  Those who continue to bow and scrape at the medieval ecclesiastical court are not faithful Catholics but enablers of evil.  The heresy here is that the pope and the bishops seem to have no real clue that the plunder of the bodies and souls of the vulnerable…..boys, girls, men and women is evil that is perpetrated by clerics and religious men and women whose lives are supposed to combat evil rather than cause it.