Priest of Integrity Award
Reverend Thomas Doyle Receives Priest of Integrity
at VOTF's July 20th National Conference
Voice of the Faithful named Rev. Thomas P. Doyle, O.P., J.C.D., a canon lawyer, the winner of its first Priest of Integrity Award at its first national conference in Boston on July 20, 2002. Dr. James Post, president of VOTF, hailed the selection of Reverend Doyle, who has worked tirelessly for 18 years to address sexual abuse by clergy. "He was prophetic in identifying the problem, in recommending a responsible course of action for bishops, and in advocating for survivors," said Dr. Post.
Echoing those sentiments, David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said, "You could not have chosen a more deserving individual to honor. Tom's an absolute hero."
In 1984, Rev. Doyle was the canon lawyer at the Vatican embassy in Washington, D.C. when the first major case to hit national headlines crossed his desk. Rev. Gilbert Gauthe was charged with molesting dozens of children in Louisiana, after having been shifted from parish to parish for years by the local bishop. In addition, numerous other priests had also engaged in criminal conduct and been reassigned.
Rev. Doyle was quick to grasp the nature of the impending crisis, not only in Louisiana, but also across the country. He looked for ways to help bishops respond pastorally to victims and to cope with the medical, legal, canonical, and spiritual issues they faced.
Joining with Rev. Michael Peterson, a priest/psychiatrist who founded a treatment center for clergy, and Ray Mouton, a Louisiana lawyer, the trio wrote a comprehensive report in 1985, and sent it to every bishop, identifying sexual abuse as a compulsive, lifelong psychosexual disorder, not a moral weakness. The report warned that sexual abuse has debilitating, long-lasting effects on victims; that the Church must never step out of character as a sensitive, caring, responsible entity, including in the actions of its legal counsel; and that failure to report abuse allegations is the most common error of the hierarchy. The bishops chose to ignore the report's advice.
Subsequently, Rev. Doyle's position at the Vatican embassy was terminated. He was vilified with accusations that he only wanted to make money from the problem by selling his services to dioceses and found himself marginalized as a loose cannon. Discouraged by the hierarchy's stonewalling, he joined the Air Force as a chaplain to find productive work.
While the 1985 report was a watershed in derailing a promising diplomatic career, Rev. Doyle considers his work since then in behalf of victims as the most important part of his ministry. First, he apologized for what the clerical elite did to hurt victims and tried to help them find spiritual peace. "He mediated Christ's presence to those who were given stone, not bread," said Dr. Post.
Second, he was the only priest to testify for victims regarding the Church's liability in 200 lawsuits, all of which were successful. In addition, he consulted on another 300 cases. His advocacy continues as he receives 50 to 70 emails daily from victims, lawyers, and media around the world.
Rev. Doyle holds a pontifical doctorate in canon law from Catholic University, and five master's degrees in canon law, political science, church administration, theology, and philosophy. His commentaries on canon law and books and articles in several disciplines fill three pages in his resume. As an Air Force major stationed in Germany, he holds 16 military awards and decorations for distinguished service.