Sex Abuse Victims' Advocate Wins Honor

By Robin Washington
The Boston Herald
January 25, 2003

At the Paulist Center in downtown Boston today, the Rev. Thomas Doyle will be honored for his role in bringing the clergy sexual abuse scandal to the world's attention.

And at St. Joseph's Cathedral in Manchester, N.H., tomorrow, he'll make that cry even louder.

The co-author of a report on priest-child molestation ignored by the church in the 1980s, Doyle, now a military chaplain in Germany, is praised by victims for his constant advocacy for their plight to an often unlistening church hierarchy.

``He's the greatest unsung hero of this whole movement. It takes tremendous courage to take the witness stand against his brother priests in support of victims,'' said David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, who will join Doyle at the New Hampshire protest, expected to draw hundreds.

Before that, Doyle will receive the Paulist Center's Hecker Award for Social Justice - an honor whose previous recipients include Dorothy Day and Cesar Chavez.

Saying he is humbled to be in that company, Doyle said awards can have a practical purpose.

``They're important because they emphasize and highlight the message, which is what has happened to survivors and victims is wrong,'' he said. ``I still see little if any honest horror over what has happened these past many years.''

But some mainstream Catholics are changing, he said.

``This is the first time that any organization affiliated with the institutional church has publicly acknowledged any one of us,'' he said.

On the picket line in New Hampshire, victims and advocates will be difficult not to acknowledge. Though he is wary of confrontational tactics, Doyle said measured protests can be effective.

``There are a lot of wonderful people that if approached the right way will become converts to the cause,'' he said, adding that the call for justice for sexual abuse victims is not a political cause of the right or the left.

``I'm a member of the National Rifle Association and a lifelong Republican. It's a right or wrong issue for me. I never was involved in social justice until I got to know survivors and victims and said, `This is wrong.' ''


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