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  Home :: 2006 October :: Priest details years in working on sex-abuse cases

Priest details years in working on sex-abuse cases

Says Bevilacqua 'should be prosecuted'

By DAVID GAMBACORTA 215-854-5994

Before he knew it, the Rev. Thomas Doyle was in over his head.

It was 1984, and Doyle, then just 40 years old, was working as a canon lawyer at the Vatican's Embassy in Washington, D.C.

It was there that he got involved with a case concerning a priest who sexually abused a minor in Louisiana.

Soon, a few other similar cases popped up, and it fell to Doyle to file a report about the incidents.

"I was pretty green and naive at the time. I thought the Catholichierarchy would snap to and do the right thing," Doyle said, beforeletting out a brief sigh. "I was 212 percent wrong on that."

It quickly became clear to Doyle that there was more than just a fewcases of priests who doubled as pedophiles. The issue, he believed, wasgoing to get bigger. Much bigger.

By 1988, Doyle, a Dominican priest, had become personally involvedwith hundreds of clergy abuse victims, traipsing across the country tocounsel them and work as an expert witness in civil court cases.

He testified on behalf of victims against the urgings of top bishopswho told him the problems could be handled within the church.

Doyle recognized what the rest of the country finally learned morethan a decade later: the church was trying to cover up the crimes.

"At first, I had some fears. I realized I was going up against thisinstitution, and I was risking my own career and future," he saidduring a wide-ranging phone interview yesterday.

"But it was the honest thing to do. I had to keep going. I knew thevictims and saw the devastation... I really couldn't back away."

By his own estimation, Doyle has testified as an expert in over 200cases of clergy sex abuse. Almost all of them have ended favorably forthe victims, usually in the form of financial settlements.

Doyle also poured his knowledge of the extensive coverup of the sexcrimes into a book, "Sex, Priests and Secret Codes: The CatholicChurch's 2,000-year Paper Trail of Sexual Abuse," which he co-authoredwith A.W. Richard Sipe.

Both men appeared at Temple University yesterday for a forumdiscussing the need for tougher child abuse laws and others that wouldabolish the statute of limitations for sex crimes against children.

Doyle, who spent 14 years working in the Air Force as a chaplain,said his efforts have earned him the scorn of many top leaders in thechurch. "They want nothing to do with me. It's a very antagonisticrelationship," he said.

He's prohibited from doing any traditional ministry, relegated toworking with hospice patients and abuse victims. "Most of the bishopsjust wish I'd move to Jupiter," he said.

In spite of the adversity, Doyle, 62, said he will continue to fightfor abuse victims and speak his mind - even if he ticks off some oldfriends.

When asked about the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and Cardinals JohnKrol and Anthony Bevilacqua, Doyle sounded exasperated. Bevilacqua andDoyle were friends as canon lawyers earlier in their careers.

A local grand jury blamed both cardinals for actively aiding thecoverup effort, allowing abusive priests to continue to feast ondefenseless children. The archdiocese rejected the grand jury'sfindings.

Bevilacqua "used to be a friend of mine. Quite frankly, I was shocked by what both of them did," Doyle said.

"Bevilacqua should be prosecuted. [The Church] doesn't get that thisruined generations of families. I never thought I'd see him in court...but I think it may happen."


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Pedophilia and sexual abuse of children in Australia