Father Tom Doyle says church teaching on human sexuality a major factor in child sexual abuse crisis

Vatican: The Catholic Church has been accused of the "soul murder" of child sexual abuse victims.
Vatican: The Catholic Church has been accused of the "soul murder" of child sexual abuse victims.

THE Catholic Church’s troubling views on human sexuality were a major factor in the child sexual abuse crisis, and led the church to commit “soul murder” of abuse victims, a Catholic priest has told the royal commission.

“Sometimes those murdered souls stay dead,” said American Dominican priest and church critic Dr Tom Doyle, who was applauded after slamming the church’s “very stultified comprehension of human sexuality”, and presentation of priests as “higher beings”.

Dr Doyle described clericalism as a “virus that has infected the church” where “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”.

It enabled priests accused of child sexual abuse to feel they would be protected by the church when allegations were raised, Dr Doyle said.

“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’,” Dr Doyle said.

“He’s on a pedestal because this concept of the institutional church has built that pedestal for him. 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 about this or God will be angry’.”

Dr Doyle is giving evidence on the second day of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse’s 50th public hearing, and its final hearing into the Catholic Church.

Dr Doyle told the commission he wrote a report for the church in 1984, which he was told was handed to Pope John Paul II, calling for an investigation of the extent of child sexual abuse in an American diocese after several shocking cases of abuse were raised.

Dr Doyle said he was “exited” in 1986 from his position as a canon lawyer working for an American Papal Nuncio after his report became public after some of the victims took court action and the action was publicised in the media.

Dr Doyle said meeting a child sex abuse victim, aged 10, “changed my life”.

“When I looked into his face – I still see it. It was empty. And that moment changed my life. His 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,” Dr Doyle said.

He told the royal commission the church’s beliefs on human sexuality contributed to the child sexual abuse crisis and led to the “soul murder” of victims because the church had no way of understanding the damage caused.

“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,” Dr Doyle said.

“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.”