Father Doyle: Uncovering Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church

About Father Doyle: Tom Doyle, is a truly heroic advocate for transparency and accountability in the Catholic Church, in all churches and synagogues and mosques. There are more than 19,000 people who endured abuse by American priests from 1950 to July 2017. And those are just the ones that can be confirmed and that we know about. For more than 30 years father Doyle has examined approximately 1000 clergy sex abuse cases across the globe, and is an expert witness and consultant to victims of clergy sex abuse. He served as a pastor in Illinois beginning in 1971, was appointed as an advocate for the Metropolitan tribunal of the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1974. He served as Secretary canonist at the Vatican Embassy in Washington DC until 1986. In 1986, he was also commissioned a reserve officer in the US Air Force and was on active duty until 2004. Here has received numerous awards for his tireless advocacy on behalf of victims and survivors of clergy sex abuse. He also wrote a groundbreaking 90 page report in 1985, titled, The problem of sexual molestation by Roman Catholic clergy. And he published a book in 2006 Sex, Priests, and the Secret Codes. 

In this episode, Steve and Father Doyle discuss:

1. When did you first become aware that sex abuse being perpetrated on children in the church was going on? When did that first kind of come onto your radar screen?

  • I knew that there was an issue of priests becoming sexually involved with minors and children, but I don’t remember when I first learned about it. I do recall, high school I went to when my family lived in upstate New York, the principal was a priest. And now I graduated high school in 1962. The principal was a priest. And I remember finding out we all did that he had taken off left run away with one of the senior girls. And they apparently had been carrying on and they attempted marriage. The marriage ended. I don’t know when but that’s the first time that it  came close to home. And of course, everybody at the time was totally stunned. Because in the 60s, much more so than now priests were held on. I mean, you were way up on the ladder, and the ladder was about a 25 storey ladder. So everybody was stunned. 

2. The Catholic Church has done everything in their power to conceal this from the public but also to not apologize to victims or not to acknowledge it and basically not be accountable or transparent. Is that that accurate?

  • That’s very accurate. That’s been the default for centuries. Not just now, our lens looking at this issue is a very narrow lens, it just focuses on our era, it came to the surface in 1984 with a case in Louisiana that broke the lid off the very thick cover of secrecy, then we begin to understand that this wasn’t going on all the time, everywhere. But it was far more extensive than any of us imagined. This, the default approach from the Catholic Church has been, as you’ve described it, secrecy. Protect the image of the church, deny as much as you possibly can, disappear the perpetrator and hands off the victims. But one of the things that truly scandalized me and made me furious with the institutional Catholic Church is they’ve systemically not only ignored the victims over the years, but they have demonized and in some instances publicly blamed them. So adding insult to injury, they’ve ignored them.  

3. But because you became much more active in pursuing what was going on, did you get any pushback at all from the Archdiocese?

  •  I did get a lot of pushback, and I thought I was doing the right thing by the church. And I thought this is what the bishops would want and I was talking to other bishops, because this was publicly known. So other bishops that I saw that were regularly coming there and asking for their advice, “What should we do?” And finally, I told him that, you know, we’re writing this report. And I remember one Bishop who became a cardinal, he said that report was necessary, he said that the way you wanted to lay it out as question and answer, so that the bishops will read it. They have nothing to go on right now. Nothing. Okay, so we wrote the report. My boss, the Archbishop, was supportive of what we were doing. He was in, he couldn’t wrap his mind around this whole thing because he’d been in the diplomatic corps since he was two years ordained. So he was something he hated. He was in lala land, he was living in another world. We finished the report, it was divided up into sections- civil law, canon law, pastoral, psychological, plus a bunch of recommendations where we take care of the victim, pull  the priest offline, and report this, and be open and honest with the media. My boss, the new CEO, on our behalf tried to submit this to the bishops conference in the United States for consideration and they rejected it. And they stated publicly at a couple of news conferences that they didn’t need it because they knew everything that was in it. This is 1985, they knew everything that was in the report and everything was under control. And then they turned around and they accused. The accusation came through their office of attorney, their civil attorney, General Counsel. They accuse Peterson of creating this issue, to benefit from it financially, to sell our services to the various bishops, which was a complete and total lie. It was, I was stunned. And that’s when I began to realize something’s going on here that I don’t know about what it was, was the beginning of our realization of a conspiracy to try to control this issue, which obviously, they couldn’t.

4. Could trace it all the way up to the Pope?

  • Sure. I’m not sure when they were first informed what was going on in Louisiana, however, at one point in January, I suggested that we find a bishop that we can trust and send them down to Louisiana to see exactly what’s going on, because it’s a mess. And by mess, I mean, there were all these forces trying to cover up for the bishop and protect the bishop and prevent a trial from happening, because they knew what was going to happen. If there’s a trial, it’s all going to come out. And if the forces were important people, one of them was the husband of the former governor of Louisiana, a guy named Ray Blanco. And the another one, oddly enough had been at one point Ted Kennedy’s father in law, a judge named Reggie Edmund who was a judge, and they were supporting trying to help the bishop. So we got this going on. I wrote a report that was 42 pages long, it was detailed, and it was explicit. This is what this priest does to these little boys, anal sex, daisy chains, with the kids to connect, photography and so on, was all right there. He knew that had to go directly to the pope as quickly as possible. He had to cut through all the layers of bureaucratic and aristocratic nonsense that went on the people’s court. So we arranged to have that report, hand delivered to Cardinal Crowell, who was the Archbishop of Philadelphia at the time. On a Sunday night, he was flying to Rome the next morning. And he told me because I arranged this with him by phone, I will personally hand that to the Pope, and ask him to read it and tell them this is urgent. By Thursday, we knew he had read it because we received the cable allowing us to appoint this Bishop is a special investigator. So the Pope in March 1985, had read a very detailed explicit report on sexual abuse of children by clergy, so the Vatican knew. By then they had a clear cut picture of what was going on over here.

5. Do you think it was a coincidence that a year or two later you were fired from your job as working at the Vatican? 

  • I don’t think it was a coincidence at all. But the way they do businesses, you never really know straight up what’s going on. So I was never really told you’re fired, because you’ve been pushing this issue too hard. But I remember my boss told me one day he said, “If you stay with this, it’s going to ruin your career in the church, if you keep pushing this issue.” Well, I made a decision then and there- I don’t care about a career in the church, I’m too committed to this. So I was told that we had a new man coming in, and we need your office space for him. Now, that’s a nice way of saying you’re going out the back door and not coming back here. So that was the end of my career.

6. Whatever happened with the Louisiana case? 

  • A couple that brought the lawsuit that went to trial, and their son, who was 10-11 years old at the time was a very, very brave boy, because this was the first time this went on. And he’s faced with a tank of sharks that we’re trying to defend the bishop. But fortunately, he had a really smart lawyer. So they testified, they won, they received a few million dollars in an award for him. The priest never went to trial, they settled before trial. He got 20 years in prison, but he actually only served 10 but he never functioned as a priest again, that’s for sure. And he could never go back to Louisiana because he’d be a dead man because he had sexually abused hundreds of kids. These Cajun fathers, nobody’s gonna mess with their family. I’m surprised that more priests weren’t actually killed. 

7. So a lots happened since then. What have you been doing since you left the Vatican embassy in 1986? Right after 1986, what did you do to advance the cause of trying to really show this or get this exposed to the public?

  • This manual that we refer to, the press got ahold of it. So it became publicly known, which meant my name and Michael Pierce’s name were out there. The three of us started getting requests from bishops, to go to their dioceses and put on seminars for the priests, mandatory seminars about this issue. We had a number of them around the country, and also religious orders, Not all of them, but a significant number, 15-20. Some of these bishops honestly wanted to do the right thing. But one Bishop said to me, “My problem is that the conference itself, the leadership of the conference, isn’t helping, they’re stonewalling on this, they are the ones that wanted to control it, stonewall it, and create the conspiracy.” Now it’s cost the church in this country, probably five and a half billion dollars. But this is the same outfit that said, in 1984-85, “We’ve got this under control. We know everything about it, we know how to handle it, we don’t need this manual.”

8. But there’s still concealing and lying as of today, right?

  • Yeah, it’s still going on but they’re on the defensive, they’ve been on the defensive all along but even more now because, although they’re trying to manipulate things, those things are not right, because the victims and their attorneys and their supporters are driving this bus. We’re the ones that are handling this thing. And it’s getting bigger and bigger and bigger, if that can be believed. I think 12 states are being investigated by state attorneys general,  what happened in Pennsylvania was earth shattering. That blew a lot of minds.

9. And for our listeners that don’t know about that, can you just briefly talk about what has happened in Pennsylvania? 

  • The Attorney General of the state of Pennsylvania, a very fine man named Josh Shapiro,  sat a grand jury and proceeded with the grand jury investigation of every Catholic Diocese in the state of Pennsylvania, with the exception of the Diocese of Philadelphia, because Philadelphia had already been subjected to three grand juries. Those those reports were unbelievable. In July 2018 they published their report, which was mind bending. That got a lot of other attorneys general moved on this so they began doing the same thing.  Another time unheard of in history, where you have a country like the US, where church and state are separated,  and you’ve got the civil authorities realizing and finally treating the Catholic Church, not with all this deference, but this is criminal behavior. And it doesn’t matter who you are, if you’re a bishop a cardinal or a Pope, if you commit crime, your a criminal, and that’s how it’s going. 

10. The report stated that there were over 300 priests that had engaged in this type of activity, is that that accurate? And this is going on now in 12 other states?

  • That was an understatement, because they said they could only report that many at that time. They wanted to get the report done, but they had verified about another 300, so you’re probably talking 700 or more. I’m involved in the District of Columbia, as a consultant, DC, Virginia, New York, Texas, New Mexico, California. I’ve been a consultant in New Jersey, but I don’t know if they’ve done anything yet. 


One of the things that truly scandalized me and made me furious with the institutional Catholic Church is they’ve systemically not only ignored the victims over the years, but they have demonized and in some instances publicly blamed them. So adding insult to injury, they’ve ignored them.” —  Father Doyle


You can hear all this and more on this episode of The Injured Senior Podcast.

To find out more about the National Injured Senior Law Center or to set up a free consultation go to https://www.injuredseniorhotline.com/ or call 855-622-6530

Get Father Doyle’s book Sex, Preists, and the Secret Code here:



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Show notes by Podcastologist: Strickland Bonner

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