The Catholic Church: Keeping the Faith - at Great Personal Cost

By Kevin Horrigan
St. Louis Post-Dispatch [Unites States]
November 28, 2004

Tom Doyle once dwelled in the church's inner circle, but was booted out when he uncovered a horrible secret. Today, that secret has come back to haunt the church.

Had Gilbert Gauthe not been a pervert, Tom Doyle would be a bishop by now.
Maybe a cardinal. Maybe, in God's time, the first American pope.

Instead, the Rev. Thomas Patrick Doyle - O.P.; C.J.D; USAF Maj. (ret.); former lawyer to the Most Rev. Pio Laghi, papal nuncio to the United States - is excited because he just got a gig counseling alcoholics, and because he has got a book coming out, and because he's on his way to occupied territory.

On this Monday, Father Doyle ("Call me Tom") was headed to Belleville to speak to some of his fellow priests, and he's not sure that Wilton D. Gregory, the bishop of Belleville, would be happy if he knew.

Probably not. Bishop Gregory just stepped down as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Doyle has helped cost the U.S. bishops millions of dollars.

As a young Dominican friar, Doyle had been fast-tracked by Cardinal John Patrick Cody, archbishop of Chicago and prince of the church. Doyle became canon lawyer for Archbishop Pio Laghi, the Vatican's nuncio (ambassador) to the United States.

This was the brass ring, a ticket to stardom, a solid-gold all-access pass to the highest levels of the Roman Catholic Church. His job was to vet the personal and theological credentials of the men Laghi would submit to the pope for consecration as bishops. Think an ambitious young priest couldn't make a few friends in that job?

But down in Lafayette, La., a priest named Gilbert Gauthe admitted in a civil deposition that he had sexually molested 37 young boys and taken pictures of them. Church officials had known about it but never told parishioners of the churches where they had moved him.

The lawyer for some of the boys came to Doyle and drew him into it. He told Doyle there were lots of priests like Gauthe. Doyle told the papal nuncio; the papal nuncio told him to investigate.

Doyle's 1985 report contained chapter and verse about pedophilia and ephebophila and a growing homosexual culture within the church. Since the early 1970s, 1,200 priests a year had been leaving the church, most of them to get married. There always had been homosexual priests, but now the gay percentage had multiplied. Many did not stay celibate, and a culture of cover-up had emerged.

The bishops ran away from Doyle's report like it had fangs. His bosses told him: Good job; now leave it alone.

He didn't, so they fired him and yanked his gold pass. In 1986, Doyle, then 42, still believing in a place where honor, duty and integrity counted, joined the Air Force as a chaplain. He also began appearing as an expert witness in abuse cases, sharing his witness fees with the victims.

In 2002, when the crisis exploded nationwide, there was Doyle's 17-year-old report to the Catholic bishops waiting to damn the bishops. There were more cases, more testimony from the one-time insider who had tried to warn the bishops.

Last April, the bishops got even, getting him drummed out of the chaplains' corps. He'd been at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany, climbing aboard planes bearing the wounded back from Iraq, offering solace to scared young soldiers. They fired him for disputing how often Mass had to be offered on the base. So now, wearing neither clerical black nor Air Force blue, he was on his way to Belleville, wearing a yellow sport shirt and a blue blazer with a Bucky the Badger lapel pin. Doyle hails from Sheboygan, Wis., and those Wisconsin Badgers are dear to his heart. So are the kids who have been hurt by priests, and so are the good priests who have been caught in the maelstrom, like the ones he's talking to in Belleville.

"I'm amazed they asked me," he said. "Usually, I only get to talk to the guys who aren't part of the system."

The church teaches that bishops - indeed, the pope - are all priests, but Doyle takes a different view. "They don't have that personal contact with people, that pastoral role. They only go to places where it's safe.

"They are still in a place where cognitively, they know the abuse cases have happened, but there's still a very high denial quotient of how it's impacted on American society and the Catholic church. As far as a full appreciation, they're not capable of understanding - they're so far removed from family life."

Doyle, once so close to the center of church power, now speaks of it as an alien culture. "They all talk in bureaucratic terms," he says of the bishops. "They'll make noises about their sorrow for the victims and their brother priests, but their first choice should be to reach out to the people who have been hurt.

"They've hired these PR firms to do their talking. They won't talk about this bizarre formation program (seminaries) that send out these sexually and emotionally immature men as priests. And they're afraid to look at celibacy, so they shift the blame to other reasons. The pope keeps blaming it on American culture. That's insane."

I tell Doyle that every time I write about this issue, I get letters from people who tell me I'm betraying the church, that I'll go to hell, that I'm Catholic-bashing.

"Tell 'em to grow up," he said. "Too many people still think faith is an infantile, magical thing, and that sex abuse doesn't happen. That's like saying polio didn't happen. The church for them offers security, and they think their security is being threatened. Catholics have to learn to think and act like adults."

With that, Doyle, now 60, and a priest for life, jumped in a car and took off for Belleville. If he had kept his mouth shut and kissed the right rings, he could've been the pope. Instead, he kept the faith.


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