Tom Doyle Wins Hearts and Minds in Ireland
Report from Sean O’Conaill, VOTF Ireland
The Dublin meeting on Friday Dec. 2 in All Hallows College produced
lively discussion, and no dissent from Tom Doyle's superb analysis of
the failure of the church system we have inherited. Colm O'Gorman's presentation
began with a reading of a letter from the former Cardinal Ratzinger,
in which we had a great example of the blame-shifting that Tom spoke
about. He and Tom were a superb speaking team.
About fifty people attended the Dublin meeting. As Tom says, the energy
in VOTF in Dublin will depend upon making contact with more Dublin
survivors - people whose anger against the church has not yet found
an outlet within the church. The state inquiry into the Dublin archdiocese,
due to start very soon, may provide us with such an opportunity.
From both the Derry and Dublin meetings, I believe VOTF established
itself as a serious force that won’t go away any time soon; there
was considerable interest at the Dublin meeting in the Derry gathering
(Derry is in the north-west and therefore far more typical of Ireland's
The Derry meeting was different, and, from all accounts, a resounding
triumph, especially for the energetic support that was expressed there
on behalf of VOTF's mission and core goals. There was one initial kerfuffle
from one woman but she found herself alone against a vigorous lobby
for her to leave - which she then did. Tom needed only to wait for
this to pass and was then listened to raptly by an audience of about
Most importantly, many in this audience had been deeply hurt, either
directly by clerical child sex abuse, or by the revelation that their
church leaders could have so badly let down their fellow Catholics.
One woman made a vigorous and highly articulate attack upon the behaviour
of the bishop of the diocese, Seamus Hegarty, saying that nothing could
change until he went.
A priest (one of about six who were present) was heard to say "Hear,
Hear!" There was considerable applause for this quite unprecedented
gesture in this city.
After Tom's impeccable presentation there were many who wished to speak;
the meeting went on for over four hours. Most importantly, Tom then
generously met with anyone who particularly wished to speak to him.
Some who did so had never before been able to unburden themselves of
their pain, and were deeply grateful.
Important one-to-one contacts were made for the first time, allowing
us to believe that our core group has expanded considerably, and that
we are putting in place an enduring support network for survivors that
will continue to grow. Furthermore, there were people present from
the neighbouring diocese of Raphoe who will be carrying good news of
us into west Donegal.
Finally, the experience of the meeting, and of getting to know Tom
Doyle, has greatly helped the whistle blowers in this diocese, ending
their lonely isolation. Voice of the Faithful has given Derry the realisation
that this home diocese of Colmcille of Iona is now firmly part of an
international Catholic network bent on restoring compassion and integrity
to our Church - and on placing lay people in a leadership role.
This weekend was a Derry, and an all-Ireland, watershed. Things are
very much better than they were just a week ago - and they will never
be quite the same again.
I cannot adequately express my gratitude to God for Tom's kindliness,
approachability to all, wisdom, calm and humility – nor my appreciation
for the generosity of a VOTF couple in Boston, whose initial donation
made these meetings possible. My way to express that best is just to
hang in there, praying hard - knowing the graces that wait in abundance
for all who will join us from now on.
The Saturday drive from Dublin to Derry, ferrying Tom to a city that
needed him so badly, will live forever in my memory. I learned so much
from him - and was so struck by his manner of supporting the newly
sprung movement “Body of the Church” in Armagh.
These are rosary-praying Irish Catholics from all over the island,
outraged by the treatment of the Maynooth whistle-blower Fr Gerald
McGinnity – “rustificated” by our hierarchy for warning
against Micheal Ledwith back about 1985. The latter went on to become
president of our major seminary - and then to embarrass his supporters
still further by falling under the miasma of clerical child sex abuse,
which forced his resignation. Tom assured them that what they were
doing made him proud.
This story will run and run.
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