Catholic Church Needs Law Banning Sexual Predators Among Clergy - Former Priest

© Sputnik / Vladimir Astapkovich / Go to the mediabankSt Peter's Cathedral in Vatican
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LONDON (Sputnik) - The Catholic Church needs a universal law that would remove clergymen found guilty of child sexual abuse from the church system forever, Thomas Doyle, a former Dominican priest who is currently one of the leaders of rights organization Ending Clergy Abuse, told Sputnik in an interview.

Doyle was one of the first priests from the Catholic Church to draw the public's attention to the problem of sexual abuse among the clergy by issuing in 1985 a report examining medical and legal aspects of pedophilia in the priesthood. Since then, the former priest has served as an expert witness in thousands of sexual abuse cases around the world.

Sputnik talked to Doyle against the backdrop of a series of revelations about the Catholic Church molestation cases, including about the concealment of years of clergy sexual abuse in the US state of Pennsylvania, and Pope Francis' visit to Ireland, during which he acknowledged the church's failure to tackle the issue of child abuse offenses at the hands of the clergy.

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All talk, no decisive action

When asked to comment on the first papal visit to Ireland in 39 years, Doyle expressed his disappointment with the Pope's address in Dublin since the former priest and his colleagues expected the pope to unveil some strong measures, preferably a universal law for the entire Catholic Church, that would combat child abuse crimes committed by the clergy.

"This was a wonderful opportunity for the Pope to announce some form of action, and what we would ask for was universal … a universal law so that if an individual sexually abused a child now or in the past they were out of Ministry forever. The only country where that's a law is the United States and that's because the [US] bishops were pushed by the people to do so. We're asking the Pope to make zero tolerance a policy, a law, for the entire Catholic Church. We were disappointed that he did not do that," Doyle explained.

He also pointed at the abundance of rhetoric in Pope Francis' address in Dublin, adding that, in his experience, measures to fight the problem of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church were pushed by victims of sexual offenses rather than by the clergy.

"It's still rhetoric and that's what we have been hearing… now I have been involved in this for thirty-four years and all I have heard is rhetoric… any major changes or any laws that have been passed or anything of that nature… has been forced by the survivors," Doyle indicated.

He acknowledged, though, that the rhetoric coming from the pope was much stronger compared to what had been said before.

"I think the rhetoric that he did… the things he said were good, they were strong, they were very pointed… Much more pointed than any rhetoric than before, but… and this is a big but… it's still rhetoric. It's still words," Doyle said.

According to Doyle, the papal visit did, nevertheless, make the sex abuse issue a very powerful theme in media.

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"The newspapers were full of that… The media focused clearly on the sexual abuse and exactly what I'm saying: the rhetoric and the lack of action. There were a lot of interviews with survivors, with people who are actively supporting survivors like myself," Doyle pointed out.

He revealed that his active engagement in the movement to help the victims of sexual abuse made him leave the church.

"I have not been an active priest for a number of years because I have been active in the movement to help the victims of sexual abuse… and if you're active in that, you can hardly be an active priest, especially in the United States, I'm considered too subversive, too dangerous… Besides I don't want to work for an organization that has enabled widespread sexual abuse of children," Doyle stressed.

Catholic church infighting

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Doyle also commented on the recent allegations brought against Pope Francis by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the former Vatican ambassador to the United States, who accused the pope of having been aware of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick sexually abusing a minor before the case became public.

In late July, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of McCarrick, archbishop emeritus of Washington, after the latter was found guilty of sexually abusing a teenager while serving as a priest in New York nearly 50 years ago.

Doyle said that he had been very surprised when the active clergyman came forward with such statements.

"My thoughts on the letter itself are that it's extreme in the sense that I'm very surprised a member of the hierarchy, who is still in union with the Pope, would make those kinds of statements, although, there is a very powerful group who make a lot of noise, who are clearly against the Pope… We thought that this was clearly a political move and we were upset that it detracted from the real issue which was the sexual abuse issue," Doyle argued.

He indicated that Vigano's statement might have sought to shift the balance of power in the Catholic hierarchy, adding, nevertheless, that he was waiting for the official response to the claims from the Vatican itself.

"I know some of the Cardinals who are behind the ultra-conservative movement and I would not have any faith in them… And they are worried about their own position and so on, because what the Pope is proposing with some of his reforms is stripping the hierarchy of significant parts of the power they have over Catholic people. It's power that is the currency over there in the Vatican, it's power, and when they get uptight… some of those guys get uptight it's because they think he [Francis] is taking their power away," Doyle believed.

Francis in touch with reality

Doyle suggested that the allegations brought against the pope might have been the result of his position on certain issues which are considered taboo by the conservative Roman Curia.

"He's been fairly blunt about some issues that indicate he's more in touch with the real world than probably anybody else over there. Because he's talking about real issues… issues with the gay-lesbian community… issues involving divorce and remarriage," Doyle said.

He added that Francis' opponents wanted to return to the beginning of the 20th century when the clergy's position was a decisive one.

"So what I see is a man who is struggling to make his vision real in the Church, and he's fighting against the Vatican Curia which is a significantly powerful group who think the Church belongs to them, that they own it and they can do whatever they wish with it. The Catholic Church, the hierarchy, has sustained itself on secrecy for ages and it's not working any longer. It's making things worse," Doyle concluded.

The views and opinions expressed by the contributors do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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