Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse case study 50 | day two

 American Dominican priest and Catholic Church critic Father Tom Doyle will give evidence on Tuesday.
American Dominican priest and Catholic Church critic Father Tom Doyle will give evidence on Tuesday.

3.27pm The royal commission has adjourned for the day and will return on Wednesday at 10am. The hearing tomorrow will feature a panel comprising Sydney University law professor Patrick Parkinson, Catholics for Renewal president Peter Johnstone, governance and management consultant Dr Maureen Cleary and Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge.

The hearing will finish early on Wednesday but resume at 6pm for evidence from Dr Gerry O’Hanlon, adjunct associate professor of theology at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland.   

11.36pm The royal commission has resumed with a panel that includes a psychologist specialising in child sexual abuse within churches.

Dr Michelle Mulvihill is a psychologist and former nun, who grew up in a “very fervent” religious background. She worked with the St John of God order for a number of years to help them with child sexual abuse. We heard on Monday that the order has a staggering 40 per cent of its members as alleged perpetrators.

Mulvihill said “I resigned from that organisation (St John of God) because I could no longer deal with the corruption and systemic abuse that was my experience of what was happening inside that organisation. I could do no more.”

A second panelist is Professor Neil Ormerod, a professor of theology with the Australian Catholic University.

Ormerod has just told the commission that his wife told him that a priest at the centre of their community had “sexualised their relationship”.

Although she was not a child, she was a vulnerable adult at the time and the relationship was “quite exploitative”.

Professor Francis Moloney is a senior professorial fellow at Catholic Theological College, and author of a book on, and I quote, “the use of the expression the Son of Man in the fourth gospel. It’s found 13 times. Why?”

His book, The Son of Man, took him three years to write, sold out in the first two editions and is now in its third edition.

I found a lot of difficulty, and I can understand why my predecessor, who was quite introspective, had had his breakdown and eventually died. He found the whole thing overwhelming.

Salesian head Francis Moloney about child sexual abuse in the order.

“It’s been through three editions, all sold out. It has become a classic in the field,” Moloney said.

Moloney took over as provincial superior of the Salesians Australia in 2006 and “I found a great mess”.

Moloney: “I found a lot of difficulty, and I can understand why my predecessor, who was quite introspective, had had his breakdown and eventually died. He found the whole thing overwhelming.”

He said his predecessor found the “face-to-face encounters with the victims, which is always stressing, soul destroying, and he found that very hard to cope with”.

The “mess” he was referring to was child sexual abuse.

The second difficulty his predecessor couldn’t cope with was “you find people that you’ve lived with and known for 30 and 40 years have betrayed everything you stand for. He just couldn’t cope with it and he had a complete breakdown”.

Professor Moloney said it was quite a rapid process to dismiss a Brother within the Catholic Church. Although it involved the Vatican, a Brother could be dismissed within three or four weeks.

It was much more difficult to defrock an ordained priest.

Moloney: “The process is dismissal, which is the most vigorous way, which the Vatican has been very loath to allow. They will go through a long, long process in order to get to this eventual dismissal.”

He has told the royal commission that the Salesians have never had many Brothers and priests in Australia, which is why the figures put in the royal commission on Monday were a concern and a surprise.

“It talks about 22.5 per cent allegations against Brother. We’ve only had about 25 Brothers since 1950 so that’s a high figure,” Professor Moloney said.

Justice Peter McClellan has asked Moloney why it was such a high figure.

Moloney: “If I knew the answer to that, that would be very helpful.”

McClellan: “Well, professor, it’s a serious question for us.”

Moloney: “Of course it is.”

McClellan: “And it surprises me that you, having held the position you did, haven’t reflected upon why it happened.”

Moloney said some of the Salesians might have been “paedophiles and would be paedophiles whether they were Salesians or not”.

Moloney: “We took it for granted that once people took this life on, they were going to do good things, not bad things, and that was a mistake.”

Furness has just put to Moloney that psychologist Dr Marie Keenan’s research – and she was quoted on Monday as very critical of the church’s processes – has discounted the theory that men join these orders to seek out children and with a known predisposition to abuse.

Moloney said he thought some of it was “situational” – they’re in a situation where they work with children and act on that in a criminal way.

Dr Keenan argued that to look at abuse as situational only, denies the institutional factor, which includes the structure and governance of the church.

Moloney agreed: “We’re basically dealing with a structure that is a pyramid where you have the point at the top and everything flows down from the top. It must work in its hierarchical system with all the possibilities of use and abuse of power that take place in that sort of situation, leading also to the appointment of fragile leadership, people who won’t bite the bullet, wait for advice from upstairs. All of those institutional things played into this.”

Moloney said “deviancy can blossom” in a situation like that.

Professor Ormerod is now talking about data released by the royal commission on Monday, including the shocking figure of 40 per cent of alleged perpetrators within the St John of God order, and how access to vulnerable people is a major factor.

Those who have the greatest access to the people who are most vulnerable are the ones who are abusing at the highest rate.

Professor Neil Ormerod

Ormerod: “Those who have the greatest access to the people who are most vulnerable are the ones who are abusing at the highest rate.

“The St John of God order, they worked with children with disabilities, mental and physical disabilities. I would imagine you would find the same sort of thing happening in the nursing profession, those who are working with people with disabilities. It is something about the interaction of vulnerability, power and domination. Where people feel inadequate – and most religious life does leave people feeling very inadequate – they have this institutional power.

“There’s private powerlessness, and public unsupervised dominance. Now that’s a really potent mix, and there’s something about vulnerability to a powerful person that is sexually alluring.

“There is something sexually attractive about vulnerability. And we see it not only in these situations but in cultures of male violence, in rape. And this is a much larger problem. That’s what the statistics are saying to me.”

The diocese with the lowest rate of child sexual abuse is Adelaide.

Ormerod: “Now those of us who know the history of Adelaide know that when Leonard Faulkner was made archbishop in 1985, he was asked whether he wanted an auxiliary bishop and he said no, but he set up a pastoral team which included a number of women. So that became a team in ministry between himself and those women.”

Ormerod said priests didn’t like it.

“You’re talking about a very male culture, and suddenly to find that there are women in the diocese who have authority over them was not something that a lot of them appreciated. But the figures that you have bear out that there was a significant cultural difference in that diocese from every other diocese in Australia,” Ormerod said.

The dioceses with the highest levels of abuse were rural dioceses with very few resources, loneliness, distance and isolation, significant contributing factors to abuse.

Faulkner’s decision to appoint women as episcopal vicars, who could be lay people, was a first in Australia. Moloney was asked if Faulkner had to seek permission, but Moloney joked that if he did need to seek permission, Faulkner didn’t.

Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson has continued the practice.

Moloney was asked how to get around priests not liking having women in positions of authority in the church.

Vatican: All roads lead to Rome, any cultural shift within the church must include Rome, the royal commission has been told.

Vatican: All roads lead to Rome, any cultural shift within the church must include Rome, the royal commission has been told.

Moloney: “I think something like a strong recommendation coming from the royal commission telling the bishops of Australia to put Vatican II into practice might help. I mean, we need strong recommendations from strong voices.”

Professor Ormerod has told the royal commission he is not aware of any theology courses in any seminary in Australia “where they actually look at the professional and ethical responsibilities of the power that they have as priests”.

“They don’t reflect ethically on their own performance in priesthood. They have a very fine theology of priesthood, but they don’t know anything about the ethics of priesthood, about the use of power, and there are many ways in which priests misuse power. And the sexual abuse issue is just another one of those,” Ormerod said.

Mulvihill has just started criticising Moloney.

“It sounds like it’s being claimed that perhaps your group, professor, or others offended because you were dealing with vulnerable people. I find that offensive. As a psychotherapist and therapist who works with vulnerable people every single day, what is it about your group that makes you more abusive than my group? Because that’s what you’re saying.”

Mulvihill was just asked what it is about the governance and structures of the Catholic Church that has allowed and permitted the abuse.

Mulvihill: “It’s all about power, isn’t it? All roads lead to Rome. It’s all about who’s in charge.”

Furness has asked Mulvihill what needs to change.

“We need to change the power balance. How many women are engaged in a place, in a misogynist place, where women are told, ‘You don’t really belong here. We can give you a job, if you like. You can do the flowers’.”

“I think it’s time for us, as Australians, to stand up to Rome and to say ‘We are not little Rome. We are not little Italy. We are Australians, and in Australia we believe in a fair go’. It’s time we all got a fair go. It’s very much time victims got a fair go.

“And what about the church providing, as soon as possible, some dignified spaces for discussion and conversation? See, dignity has been attacked at every level, from the position of a child whose innocence has been taken away, through to the position of normal and ordinary church-going people. If it is that we are the church, then who are we and why aren’t we rollicking down the barricades and saying to the royal commission and to anyone who wants to listen, ‘We will not put up with this again’.”

Ormerod said the church required a cultural shift, and “that cultural shift has to come from the top”.

“This is about a culture of impotence, in many ways,” Ormerod said.

He is now talking about a review of the Australian church by the Vatican in 1998, and a document that mandated there should be constant training for all priests.

Moloney said there are very big issues that bishops and leaders face relating to local clergy – 60 per cent elderly Australian men, and 40 per cent of “younger Africans, Vietnamese, Filipinos”.

We also have a number of very poor bishops, who really are bad appointments and it’s beyond them.

Professor Francis Moloney

One of the major problems facing Catholic bishops is getting priests to each parish to say mass.

Moloney: “So a big problem for the bishops is to get enough bodies to serve every region so that they’ll at least have mass on a Sunday, and I would suggest that is preoccupation number one. And that’s a battle. They’re struggling to get that done.”

Moloney: “We have some outstanding bishops in Australia who are doing their best to face these issues and to adopt courageous, forward-looking lines that will change our culture. We also have a number of very poor bishops, who really are bad appointments and it’s beyond them.”

Moloney has told the commission that the commission has a responsibility to the Australian people.

McClellan: “So if we were to say, drawing upon the Adelaide discussion, that women should have a far more significant role in the management of the dioceses, you would see that as a legitimate thing for us to talk about?”

Moloney: “Absolutely, and you would be absolutely in agreement with Pope Francis. He’s saying it in season and out of season. But there’s a lot of people between us and Pope Francis, and they don’t like him.”

Ormerod said it was a fraught area because “it touches on the whole issue of the relationship between church and state”.

Ormerod: “It’s easy for the commission to make recommendations and suggestions. It’s difficult to see how they can be enforced or followed up. And it’s exactly in that area of follow up is that the church is at its weakest of implementing recommendations that have been made and following through and coming to a conclusion. It is a mighty task and a difficult task.”

McClellan: “The first step is whether it’s legitimate for the commission to speak in this area. I mean, it would be easy to dismiss what we might say if the argument is, well, it’s just none of your business. We’re the church or the state. You know, shut the door.”

Ormerod: “It has become the business of our society to feed back to the church that it’s not doing what it should be doing and that it needs to get its act together, and these are some concrete ways in which that can happen.”

Ormerod has asked the question, how can the commission follow through, or parliament?

Mulvihill: “Child sexual abuse is a criminal activity, and in so much as crimes are occurring, I expect the royal commission has every right to advise.”

Ormerod has told the royal commission of a story of a child sexual abuse victim telling a priest about her abuse by another priest. The priest said: “The poor man, he was struggling with his celibacy.”

“That’s what has to be broken down, identification with the perpetrator. It’s a clerical club. It’s very difficult for them to make assessments about their brother priests or religious, because they’re the ones whom they spontaneously identify with when complaints are made, when action has to be taken,” Ormerod said.

The numbers within religious orders in Australia is declining, while it’s growing in other parts of the world, the royal commission has been told.

Moloney is telling the royal commission his view of how the Catholic Church is going at the moment.

Moloney: “I think we’re on the way, becoming aware of what the problems are, but again for the sorts of reasons, the cultural reasons that were powerfully outlined this morning by Dr Doyle, it’s like a great big wheel. You know, to slow it down, to get it to go the other way – I’d say it’s in the slowing down phase, but we haven’t turned it around just yet.”

Moloney has just told the commission that seminaries in Australia are actually returning to clericalism, rather than training young men to be whole, good priests.

“The seminaries are closing their doors, they’re putting garments on the boys, they’re having long Latin liturgies, they like to walk around the streets with their (gowns), that’s what’s happening. so don’t tell me things are changing. A lot of people believe this is the solution to the problem – make them more clerical than ever. So we’ve got to face these truths,” Moloney said.

Looking back: Cardinal George Pell re-introduced the Latin mass and clericalism, the royal commission has been told.

Looking back: Cardinal George Pell re-introduced the Latin mass and clericalism, the royal commission has been told.

Moloney said the “old system is well and truly in force, so much so that the newly ordained priests will now wear little hats on their heads and long lace vestments and say their first mass in Latin. That’s what we’re looking at. We went backwards”.

McClellan has asked when the changes occurred.

Ormerod: “This was in, well, I was there, let's see, 16 years ago, so it was at the time of then Archbishop Pell’s appointment to the Sydney Archdiocese.”

Moloney said the return of clericalism was “a pretty dangerous indirect link” with child sexual abuse because it created the idea of “a caste set apart that is answerable to no-one except their peer group”.

Commissioner Murray has just asked the question: “Which then allows for greater sexual abuse to occur?”

Moloney: “Exactly.”

Murray: “So are you saying to us that there is a danger in restructuring the church that way, that the incidence of child sexual abuse might increase?”

Moloney: “I think the lurch to the right, to try to return to what we were in the 1940s and 1950s, is a dangerous direction for the church to take. I don’t think it will take that direction. I think history, and hopefully this royal commission, will be an element of that, but there is that danger.”

I think the lurch to the right, to try to return to what we were in the 1940s and 1950s, is a dangerous direction for the church to take.

Professor Francis Moloney

The current Archbishop of Hobart, Julian Porteous, was the rector at Sydney Archdiocese 16 or so years ago when the archdiocese made its, as Moloney described it, “lurch to the right”, the royal commission has been told.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was asked a question in parliament after revelations from the royal commission on Monday.

Turnbull: “We are all committed to ensuring that redress is provided to the survivors of child sexual abuse by the responsible institutions. We have announced a Commonwealth redress scheme for survivors of child sexual abuse in Commonwealth institutional settings. The scheme will be established  by next year, 2018. It will comprise a monetary payment, psychological counselling and a direct personal response to acknowledge the wrongdoing inflicted upon survivors.

“We are inviting the States, Territories and other non-Government institutions to join in the Commonwealth scheme to deliver redress and this announcement has been widely welcomed by survivor groups, institutions and States. We encourage all institutions to participate in this. We call on the Opposition to support the Commonwealth scheme.

“In 2009, Honourable members will remember the apology to forgotten Australians had bipartisan support. We would encourage the Labor Party on this occasion to throw their support behind our scheme. This is a national shame. Redress is available, we have set up a scheme that will do that. The most critical thing that all of us must remember is that this type of abuse, this abuse, in any context, can never happen again. This was - this is not just a history lesson. This is not just a sad tale from times past. This is a reminder to all of us today, in every part of the nation to protect the vulnerable in our care, the children in our care in whatever context.”

The royal commission will start at 10am on Wednesday and adjourn early because it will be hearing from Dr Gerry O’Hanlon from Ireland between 6pm and 8pm.

12.28pm The royal commission has adjourned for an early lunch after a round of applause for Dominican priest Tom Doyle.

12.04pm The royal commission has resumed.

Dr Doyle has just told the royal commission that the church’s concept of celibacy was “not practised universally and consistently by Catholic priests, probably throughout.”

Doyle said it was fairly well accepted and the statistics are generally “solid” that 50 per cent of clerics are not celibate.

Doyle: “There will be a defensive response: ‘Well, there is only a few and they really don’t understand it and they need help’ or at a local level, the presbytery, if you know that there are men (having relationships with women or not remaining celibate), sometimes they are just ignored. It’s just ignored by the other priests in the house. But in many instances it’s tolerated, it’s known, but it’s kept secret, somewhat secret.”

Priests in the eastern rites Catholic churches have an 84 per cent marriage rate, and Anglican priests are often married, Doyle said.

Doyle: “The justification (within the Catholic church about celibacy) is generally given in spiritual terms and it’s all based on the teaching of human sexuality, that if you don’t have sex you are a better person, a higher person than those who do.”

There is another layer that is not openly discussed and that’s the fact that the celibacy issue creates a power link between the superiors and the priests, a controlling link that you have there.

Dr Tom Doyle

Doyle has just given evidence supporting James Miller’s view on celibacy. Miller is a barrister and author of the the book, The Priests, in which he recounted abuse by the late St Pius X Adamstown principal Father Tom Brennan, and alleged Brennan had a sexual relationship with another priest/teacher, the late Patrick Helferty.

Miller alleged in his book that the sexual relationship between Brennan and Helferty allowed notorious St Pius X priest/teacher John Denham to blackmail Brennan and continue abusing boys at the school for years, and beyond when he left the school.

Miller has argued the Catholic Church must address the celibacy issue, and remove mandatory celibacy, because of the ability to control clerics who are supposed to be celibate.

Doyle refers to it as “the controlling link”.

Doyle has just told the royal commission: “There is another layer that is not openly discussed and that’s the fact that the celibacy issue creates a power link between the superiors and the priests, a controlling link that you have there. It also creates a mystique about the priest, as I mentioned earlier, that we have some sort of extra power.”

Doyle is answering the question “Why have not more men (priests) come forward within the church to report abuse or speak out about it?”

Doyle: “Part of that has to do with the fact that some of those have been told by the bishop, ‘Keep your mouth shut. Mind your own business’.”

Doyle said “Every bishop who has stood with victims publicly, and there are only three that I know of, out of 4400, has been in some way or other penalised or isolated or sidelined, every one, by the Holy See.”

I will ask Doyle if he includes former Maitland-Newcastle Bishop Michael Malone, who famously walked with victims of abuse during World Youth Day celebrations in Sydney in 2008, rather than attend an official church function attended by Pope Benedict and Australia’s bishops and archbishops.

Malone later took an early retirement, although he stated publicly that it was at his request. He also talked about the silence of his brother bishops when he raised the issue of child sexual abuse at national bishops conferences.

Counsel assisting Gail Furness has just asked Doyle how the royal commission can recommend changes in the church.

Doyle: “I would like to say I am very honoured to be here, because I believe what you are doing is unique in the world. It is historic. It is going to make a mammoth difference in the long run. You have taken something on that is mind-boggling and you are going into it in a deeper, more enlightened, more courageous manner than any other body that I have had contact with, and I’ve had contact with a lot of them, that are doing the same thing.

“This problem, this sexual abuse, the way we’ve described it, the way you are seeing it, is not unique in Australia. It is worldwide, and what you do and what you say and what you come up with at the end is going to have an effect around the world. It is hopefully going to have a profound effect in the Vatican and it is another pile of information that is saying what they do not want to hear. But this issue is damaging the most vulnerable people in the church and I believe the community has an obligation to say to the system, to the institution, ‘This is what we have found. You need to make some changes to make sure this doesn't keep happening’, and those change are structural.”

Doyle has just raised the issue of the church’s view on human sexuality again.

Doyle: “When you have the Vatican saying that homosexuality, homosexual men or women, are intrinsically disordered, that says volumes. That says we don’t really know what we’re talking about, when you say that about any human being, that they are internally disordered.

“I think it is a misunderstanding of human sexuality, it is a general, sometimes an unwillingness to really want to learn how bad this is. Because if we learn how bad this is, it’s not going to make us look very good in the long run. So we would rather, you know, look the other way.”

11.37am The royal commission has adjourned for the morning tea break. Dr Tom Doyle will return to give more evidence after the break. 

10.08am The royal commission has resumed for its second day of evidence. Dr Tom Doyle has been sworn in.

Doyle became a Dominican novitiate in 1964. He said he wasn’t raised in a “churchy” household. His father was a scientist “and so there was, I think, a healthy amount of scepticism and realism in the family”.

He said he became a Dominican priest because they were “very much down to earth and normal”.

He began theological studies and obtained a PhD in canon law, or church law.

Doyle said he was working for the Archdiocese of Chicago as a judge in the ecclesiastical tribunal, when he was called to be the canon lawyer “vetting” potential bishops. He would send out confidential questionnaires to 20 or so people, with up to 50 questions.

The questions covered issues like the church’s doctrine on marriage of priests, women priests and homosexuality.

Doyle: “If you didn’t pass that, you didn’t get any further.”

The questions were sent out on the basis of being “under the pontifical secret” – a term that we’re going to hear more of in coming days in relation to the operation of canon law within the church, and its possible impact on how senior church representatives handle child sexual abuse allegations. In the context of the questionnaire, the pontifical secret prevented bishops from revealing anything about the process to anyone else.

Doyle said his first contact with survivors was in Louisiana in 1985, but it was not his first contact with the problem. Police contacted Doyle’s office with a retired bishop who had been picked up with two teenagers.

Police dealt with senior Catholics and the matter only ended – after the retired bishop was picked up by police again –  with the retired bishop’s death.

Questions: The sainted Pope John Paul II. Father Tom Doyle said a report on a serious child sexual abuse scandal in Louisiana involving a priest, which recommended an investigation into the broader child sexual abuse issue, was handed to the Pope.

Questions: The sainted Pope John Paul II. Father Tom Doyle said a report on a serious child sexual abuse scandal in Louisiana involving a priest, which recommended an investigation into the broader child sexual abuse issue, was handed to the Pope.

The next incident involved a senior priest whose name was put forward to be a bishop. Another man contacted Doyle’s office to say if the senior priest was made a bishop he would make it public that the bishop had sexually abused a boy.

Doyle’s office investigated and the boy was believed. The senior priest did not become a bishop.

Police were not contacted.

”In the papal ambassador’s office, going to the police, unless they brought the case to us, was not even on the table, that was not discussed,” Doyle said.

Doyle is now telling the royal commission about another incident in Louisiana about a priest who had been “pulled offline by the bishop” because he had sexually abused “a lot”, and his victims were “prepubescent little boys”.

The church took the matter seriously when one of the fathers of one of the victims said he was going to take a shotgun and “take care of” the priest.

The church removed the priest and paid about $300,000 per family of the victims.

“Now this was the first time that I know of that something like this had happened,” Doyle said.

Then one of the families pulled out of the deal.

When the media became involved, after the family pursued a civil case through the courts, the matter “went viral”, Doyle said.

“I was in charge of handling the case, preparing documentation, keeping my boss informed as to what was going on, because the Nuncio (senior Catholic official) was blown away. He didn’t know what this was – he knew what it was about, but he was just stunned when he found out that these people were going to sue the Catholic Church and that the media was pointing at the bishops and blaming them,” Doyle said.

(The Papal Nuncio) was just stunned when he found out that these people were going to sue the Catholic Church and that the media was pointing at the bishops and blaming them.

Dominican priest and canon lawyer Dr Tom Doyle.

He said the priest was eventually jailed for a lengthy period, but was jailed again after sexually abusing his neighbour’s three-year-old.

Doyle is now talking about church supervision of priests after these kinds of cases.

“I know of a few cases where it actually is done the right way. But for the most part, often times you find that the men on the support team don’t even know they are there. And this all comes out when the man re-offends. So in general, I think you cannot presume that the supervision will be done in a confident and effective manner,” Doyle said.

Doyle said his understanding of his work was to inform the Papal Nuncio of what was going on relating to child sexual abuse cases, prepare a report and it was then sent to the Vatican.

Doyle is now talking about events in early January 1985, when a lawyer visited Doyle and said the child sexual abuse issue in Louisiana was not confined to the one priest Doyle was already aware of. The lawyer told him there were another six priests who were “preying on children”.

Doyle said the bishop said “they would take them offline, they would pull them in”.

“Keep in mind, this was 1985. Up to that point, this was all, this had been going on all over the place, all over the United States, but it was done in a deeply secretive manner. Nobody found out. And these men were transferred somewhere else under the cloak of secrecy, and if they were discovered again they were transferred again,” Doyle said.

Doyle prepared a report seeking permission for an investigation to establish the extent of child sexual abuse. A cardinal who was flying to the Vatican said the report was handed to Pope John Paul II. A bishop who was the go-between, and who Doyle thought was a “good guy”, turned out to be “part of the problem and not part of the solution”.

He has told the Royal Commission that he was receiving reports from people representing the victims, which directly challenged what the Vatican and the church were saying.

Senior Catholic lay people were threatening the media, there was a lot of chaos.

“It was a crazy drama, but it was real,” Doyle said.

You can’t make this stuff up. It sounds bizarre, I know. It may sound somewhat humourous, and I have to admit that one of the only ways I could cope with this through the years is find some humour, otherwise I would have gone totally mad.

Father Tom Doyle

He was contacted by a family where all five daughters were sexually abused by a priest. The church advised the priest to go to Holland “because we don’t have an extradition treaty”.

Doyle: “You can’t make this stuff up. It sounds bizarre, I know. It may sound somewhat humourous, and I have to admit that one of the only ways I could cope with this through the years is find some humour, otherwise I would have gone totally mad.”

Doyle said some American bishops were concerned and proactive about the child sexual abuse issue, but others did not want to know.

Doyle: “The National Conference of Bishops didn’t want it (a report on the “serious problem” of the child sexual abuse issue in America).

Doyle said meeting a young boy, 10,  who had been sexually abused by a priest “changed my life”.

“I knew it was a serious problem, but the victims were pieces of paper that I read. I read the descriptions. And they were pretty disturbing. But then I met a 10-year-old boy with his family. And when I looked into his face – I still see it. It ”was empty. And that moment changed my life. Parents were simple, good, decent people who could not comprehend why they were being treated the way they were by the church. They couldn’t understand why this man had been shifted from one place to another to another and nothing was done,” Doyle said.

Doyle said he was “exited” out of the Nuncio embassy in 1986 because he had become prominent on the issue of child sexual abuse after his initial document was made public.

Doyle: “I think they decided that there was too much heat and too much attention being given to this issue and that it would be better to let it sort of – I was told several times ‘We don’t air our dirty laundry, we take care of our problems in-house’. I didn’t want to do that.”

Doyle said he is a recovering alcoholic who had had 25 years of sobriety.

“It has helped me more than anything to have a rapport with some of these people,” he said.

Care of victims: Pope Francis has a responsibility to take care of the victims of the church's child sexual abuse crisis.

Care of victims: Pope Francis has a responsibility to take care of the victims of the church's child sexual abuse crisis.

Doyle: “One of the massive holes in the Roman Catholic Church’s approach to this issue, still today, is a failure to completely comprehend the depth of the spiritual damage that is done to the victims, to their families, especially their parents, to their friends and to the community itself. There seems to be no ability to even ask the proper questions. I have never seen anything coming out of the Holy See dealing with the spiritual damage. All I’ve seen is ‘Get them to go back to church’, which is nuts. That’s crazy. But I’ve not seen anything anywhere.”

Doyle said he was voted to be a consultant to Pope Francis’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. He told the commission over two days that it was not enough to give people compensation.

Doyle: “It is not enough to say ‘Give them money to go to psychologists’.”

What they don’t know how to do and what they didn’t know how to do was face the men and women who have already been harmed and deal with their anger, shame, with their guilt.

Father Tom Doyle

Doyle: “What they don’t know how to do and what they didn’t know how to do was face the men and women who have already been harmed and deal with their anger, shame, with their guilt. There is a fear of dealing with the anger and the frustration that goes with it.”

Doyle said he wasn’t sure if anything had happened as a result of his talk to the commission.

Doyle: “One of the women on the commission, she had been the Polish ambassador to the Holy See, she thought her job there was to kind of make the Vatican look good to the Polish people, and when some victims approached her to want to talk to her, she refused to see them. So there’s something wrong with that picture.”

Doyle said Pope Francis had laicised three or four bishops because of their handling of the child sexual abuse issue.

Doyle has refuted the claim by some senior church representatives that the child sexual abuse crisis involving clerics was linked to the rise of the modern in society in general during the 1960s.

My main concern has been the institutional systemic causes, why this has happened, why it has been covered up, why it has been lied about, why the victims have in many instances been turned into the enemy, why, when the victims enter into the civil courts, they are pounded into the ground by the church’s attorneys in many instances.

Father Tom Doyle

Doyle and an American specialist on child sexual abuse within the church, Richard Sipe, wrote a book in 2006 called “Sex, Priests and Secret Cults”. They found the first Catholic Church document on sex with young boys in AD98, and the church ruled then that “You cannot do this.”

In AD309 the first council of Catholic bishops enacted laws, included a law against clerics having sex with children.

Doyle: “Those who did engage in sex with minor boys were denied communion even on their death bed.”

Doyle: “During periods of church history, sexual abuse of minors was not cloaked in deep secrecy. It was known. There were periods in the late middle ages and in the middle middle ages when the church authorities collaborated with the secular authorities. They would defrock a priest and then turn them over to the secular authorities who would apply whatever the secular penalty was.”

Some church penalties were severe.

Doyle has told the royal commission the “deep secrecy” about child sexual abuse occurred from the Vatican in the late 1800s. It only changed because of victims, survivors, their families, the media and people within the church who pushed the church to end the secrecy.

Doyle said his main concerns have not been about why some priests become child sex offenders.

Classic: The treatment of victim and lawyer John Ellis when he approached Sydney Archdiocese under Cardinal George Pell was a "classic example" of the church's response to victims.

Classic: The treatment of victim and lawyer John Ellis when he approached Sydney Archdiocese under Cardinal George Pell was a "classic example" of the church's response to victims.

“My main concern has been the institutional systemic causes, why this has happened, why it has been covered up, why it has been lied about, why the victims have in many instances been turned into the enemy, why, when the victims enter into the civil courts, they are pounded into the ground by the church’s attorneys in many instances,” Doyle said.

The treatment of survivor and lawyer John Ellis by Sydney Archdiocese, under Cardinal George Pell, which was the subject of an earlier royal commission public hearing, was a “classic example” of the church’s response to abuse survivors seeking support from the church, Doyle said.

The church was strongly criticised for its attempts in court to stop Mr Ellis, when he initially approached the church seeking pastoral care and support, and not compensation.

People in the commission hearing room have just applauded after Doyle said the church’s “stature, image, power” appeared to be far more important than the welfare of the victim, “and in the theology that I believe in, there’s no office in the Catholic Church or anywhere else that is so important that it justifies sacrificing the welfare of one innocent child. Period.” 

He has described “clericalism” as a “virus that has infected the church or any church whereby it is believed that the church men, the priests, the bishops, are in some form or way sacred and above ordinary people, and because of this sacredness, because of their importance, they must be held as more important and protected more”.

Doyle is now articulating how people can be abused by priests who promoted that they were above the law, and more important than everyone else.

Doyle: “It enabled the priests, many of them, in doing this, because they felt that they would be protected. They used this stature, this belief on the part of people that they were higher beings, often times to seduce, to groom the victims, to lead them in. The victims, they didn’t know what they were getting into. They had no idea. I can’t tell you how many have said ‘We thought it was a tremendous honour that he was picking me out, because he’s a priest. He’s on a pedestal. He’s higher than others’. And he’s on that pedestal because this concept of the institutional church has built that pedestal for him. So he’s up there. And it’s easier – the seduction, the grooming takes place and the priest can use that to control the victim, to scare the victim, ‘Don’t you tell anyone baout this or God will be angry’. And many victims that I’ve talked to are totally, they are completely confused through all of this, because they are taught anything sexual is a mortal sin. Priests don’t do sex, priests don’t do sin. He did this to me, it must be my fault. Why did he do it?

“Priests take the place of God, which is another crazy belief people. So God is going this to me. Waht did I do to offend God? All of this comes from this structure. It doesn’t come from the air.

It also enables a lot of judges to look the other way when they had a man in front of them who should have been sent to jail but was sent home.

Father Tom Doyle

“That concept is also what has protected the disclosure where parents would be afraid to disclose that their child had been abused because they were intimidated, often times, because we don’t want to hurt the church. If we hurt the church, if we hurt a priest, it is a heavy duty sin.

“It also enables a lot of judges to look the other way when they had a man in front of them who should have been sent to jail but was sent home.”

Doyle said mandatory celibacy did not make clerics child sex offenders, but “the grounding for celibacy, the training, the nurturing and the formation of celibacy has prevented men from maturing sexually, emotionally, psychologically in many ways, so that as one priest psychologist said, ‘What we have out there is the best educated group of 14-year-olds in the country’.”

Priests were taught that male/female relationships were “lower” than their celibacy and virginity which was higher.

Doyle has criticised church teaching that human sexuality is “only good for making other Catholic babies, but everything else is a mortal sin, and you only do it reluctantly at best”.

“So a lot of the individuals, a lot of clerics, have a very stultified comprehension of human sexuality, and that plays in when they are unable to comprehend the damage that the sexual violation of a boy or a girl does to an individual, when they are unable to comprehend the damage that rape does to a woman, to an adult woman, or what happens to a child. When the leadership, the bishops, say ‘Well, father was passed by two psychiatrists, we’re going to let him back in ministry’, when all they can see is that he has passed, they don’t comprehend what has happened to those victims, that’s never going to go away. It is never going to go away. That’s soul murder. Sometimes those murdered souls stay dead.”

9.51am Good morning everyone. It’s Joanne McCarthy at the Royal Commission in Sydney on day two of the commission’s 50th public hearing, and the final public hearing into the Catholic Church after 15 earlier hearings into the church.

On Monday we heard shocking evidence of the extent of the church’s crimes across Australia. For many years the church has argued, sometimes aggressively, that it has been singled out for attention when the majority of child sexual abuse occurs within families – true – and child sexual abuse occurs within other churches and institutions – also true.

But the royal commission has exposed those arguments for what they were – excuses and justifications before a day of reckoning the church never thought would happen. Two of the most familiar orders involved with teaching children – the Christian and Marist Brothers – had one in five members accused of child sexual abuse. The St John of God order, which ran Morisset’s Kendall Grange from 1948 to 2001 for troubled or intellectually disabled boys, had a staggering 40 per cent of its members accused of child sexual abuse.

Maitland-Newcastle diocese’s percentage of alleged child sexual abusers rose from about 4 per cent in the 1950s, up to more than 10 per cent in the 1990s and up to 2010.

Today we’re going to hear evidence from American Dominican priest Tom Doyle, a canon lawyer and strong critic of the church’s handling of child sexual abuse, and particularly its support for abuse survivors.

Father Doyle will give evidence of a report he wrote in 1984, which he was advised was hand-delivered to the then Pope John Paul II – now a saint – following a shocking case of child sexual abuse in America and how the church paid out at least nine victims to keep them quiet.

We heard on Monday from Catholic priests Dr Michael Whelan and Dr David Ranson, who both gave evidence that the Catholic Church needs to change from within, from the Vatican down to parish level.

The royal commission’s website allows people to access the documents it has used during public hearings into the Catholic Church, and the many other institutions investigated over the past four years. The website has the 50-page report referred to on Monday, with data from all Australian dioceses and orders on the extent of abuse in this country.

These reports are grim but necessary reading for Catholics wanting to help their church through this crisis, which clearly extends beyond Australia to the Vatican itself.