The coverup of priest sexual abuse continues from the Vatican down. Truly disgusting. Men protecting their wealth and power.



Cloyne facts expose the pathology of the church


OPINION: Unless the Catholic hierarchy examines its obsession with power it cannot reform itself

MUCH OF the Cloyne report brought no surprises to the people of Ireland and those of us in other countries who had anticipated its publication. In many ways it was a continuation of the revelations that came with the three commission reports that preceded it. 

The report was met with the expected “heartfelt” expressions of regret, apology and even shock by officials of the Catholic Church, followed by promises of reform and the promulgation of yet more procedures, policies and boards. By now the Irish people, however, are beyond suspicion and cynicism. They have broken through another layer of the protective clerical veneer and have named the responses for what they are: a mendacious smokescreen. 

It is no consolation to the Irish people but they are certainly not alone. This debacle in the Diocese of Cloyne is reflected in the recent publication of the report of the grand jury in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Five years after a first jury exposed widespread cover-up and shameful treatment of victims, followed by the usual promises to clean up the mess, a second grand jury found that the expressions of regret and promises of reform were a deceptive cover for an intentional lack of commitment to bring justice to victims and protect children. 

Cardinal Seán Brady said that “grave errors of judgment were made and serious failures of leadership occurred”. Bishop John Magee admitted that the diocese “did not fully implement the procedures set out in church protocols”. What happened in Cloyne and in Ferns, Dublin, and the institutions cannot be dignified as “grave errors of judgment” or incomplete implementation of church protocols. The systemic sacrifice of the emotional, psychological and spiritual lives of innocent children for the sake of the image and power of the hierarchy was no error. 

The commission of investigation into abuse in the Cloyne diocese learned that the destructive response to the reports of sexual abuse was not accidental or isolated but embedded in the fabric of the clerical culture. The members of all four commissions are to be highly commended for their courage in rising above the long-standing tradition of unquestioned deference to the hierarchy to reveal in detail the disgraceful and infuriating systemic disregard of the innocent children. 

The three preceding reports were indeed shocking and scandalous. But the report carries the revelations even further in three important ways: naming the Vatican as an integral part of the problem; exposing the cynical use the concept of “pastoral care” as an excuse for obstructing justice; and acknowledging that the church cannot be trusted faithfully to comply with its internal regulations, much less the demands of the civil law. 

When the reality of widespread sexual violation of the young by clergy was first exposed in the US in 1985, Pope John Paul II and the Vatican remained mute for six years. When questioned, Vatican spokesmen distanced not only themselves but the rest of the world by asserting it was an “American problem”. In his first public statement on June 11th, 1993, the pope tried to shift the blame to the secular media, whom he accused of “sensationalising” evil. He concluded his letter with: “Yes dear brothers, America needs much prayer lest it lose its soul.” 

It was not long before tragic events in Newfoundland, Austria and Ireland clearly dislodged the papal efforts at denial. The recognition of widespread sexual molestation by clerics in several continental European countries, in South America and most recently in the Far East, have confirmed this is a worldwide problem not only of sexual violation by dysfunctional clerics but, even worse, a problem of intentionally self-serving and destructive responses by the bishops. 

THE DIRECT ROLE of the Vatican in enabling and even directing the cover-up, stonewalling and obstruction of justice has been suspected for years. The report made a vitally important breakthrough by describing in concrete detail the essential role the Vatican played in the disgrace of the diocese. 

The report points to two serious deficiencies in the Vatican response. The first is the papal nuncio’s refusal to co-operate with the commission during the Dublin and Cloyne investigations, as well as his lukewarm response to the horrific contents of the report. The second and far more treacherous aspect is the direct attempt to sabotage the Irish bishops’ 1996 policy document Child Sexual Abuse: Framework for a Church Response . 

The commission found this document contained a “detailed and easy to implement set of procedures”. Yet, before it could adequately be put into practice, the papal nuncio, Archbishop Luciano Storero, sent the Irish bishops a letter passing on the concerns of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy. The letter clearly reflected the reactionary attitude of Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, who was prefect at the time. He erroneously labelled the policy “merely a study document”. 

This most outrageous and at the same time erroneous sentence gave the Irish bishops licence to ignore their own procedures but also the civil law. 

The Vatican response has been the defence of the hierarchy and the scandalous lack of concern for the victims. There are the expected expressions of regret, sorrow and promise of prayers which serve only to confuse and even anger the victims and are a very thin cover for the consistent pattern of self-serving support and protection of the bishops. 

The clerical culture that cannot comprehend the depth of evil and destruction it has enabled has failed to internalise the reality that in this 21st century sacrificing the welfare of innocent children to maintain the image and power of an ecclesiastical aristocracy is a disgrace that will be the catalyst for an inevitable and profound change in the nature of the institutional church. 

The rapid disintegration of the absolute control of the Irish hierarchy over Irish society is the result not of the lack of faith of the Irish people, as some in ecclesiastical leadership would like to believe, but in the lack of fidelity of the leadership to the people whom they have sworn to serve. 

Msgr Denis O’Callaghan, Bishop Magee’s point man, openly opposed the framework document because it did not provide an adequate pastoral response. This masks a fundamental misunderstanding and misapplication of an authentic expression of pastoral care which is not an excuse for minimising the fact sexual violation of a minor is a serious crime in both canon and civil law. 

WORSE STILL WAS the use of pastoral care as a justification for protecting the accused priests at the expense of justice for the victims. The report saw the misuse of the pastoral concept as a “scheme whereby counselling was provided to the complainant in a manner which was hoped would not attract any legal liability to the diocese”. 

There is no evidence of effective pastoral care in the past or even today, only crisis management. There is no evidence from any of the four reports that the overriding concern of the hierarchy and clergy has been the physical, emotional and spiritual welfare of the victims. What would true pastoral care have looked like? Upon receipt of a report of the sexual molestation of a child or adult, the bishop’s first (and often only) concern would not be the maintenance of secrecy and protection of the priest. Rather, he would immediately seek out the victim and the victim’s family to make clear to them that in their hour of pain, confusion and humiliation at the hands of a cleric, they and not the cleric are the most important people in the diocese and indeed in the church. 

The third breakthrough is the realisation that any structures or policies created by the church depend on the commitment of the bishops and the support of the priests. In Cloyne and elsewhere the bishops made promises, created policies and appointed boards and then proceeded systematically to subvert their rules and those of society. 

Marie Collins, in her recent interview on RTÉ’s Prime Time , spoke the truth when she said that the promises and policies that have streamed from the bishops mean nothing. The report clearly reflects this sad reality: “It seems to the Commission that continuing external scrutiny is required.” Outside monitoring with serious consequences for neglect, and mandatory reporting by all clergy with possible jail time as a consequence for failure, are necessary responses. 

The commission has probed deeply into the dysfunctional clerical culture of the Cloyne diocese. With this report, the threshold to a new level of awareness has been reached. The findings and conclusions, as probing and shocking as they may be, are not enough. What we have seen exposed in all four reports but most shockingly in the Cloyne document is the toxic nature of the clerical culture at the heart of the institutional church. 

We must demand answers to even more radical questions. What is it about this culture that justifies living in an alternate reality that places image and clerical security far above the welfare of innocent children? Why does the “people of God”, as Vatican II described the church, need to function like a monarchy with an attendant clerical aristocracy? 

Why the narcissistic obsession with power, secrecy and control? Until the bishops and priests look deeply into this culture and acknowledge its pathology, the outrageous behaviour exposed in the report will be part of a shameful history. 

Fr Thomas Patrick Doyle OP, a US Dominican priest with a doctorate in canon law, is a renowned and outspoken advocate for church abuse victims.


  1. [email protected] says:

    See, see, see, I TOLD you so.

    The coverup went STRAIGHT to the top of the Church. This is a sterling example of how failing to deal definitively with a serious problem (abuse of children by priests) led to even more horrible problems done the road. Budget negotiations anyone?

    You just can’t make evil go away by covering it up, you just can’t, it festers like a toxic infection under the surface until it bursts into the light of day, sickening and killing everybody around it.

    I predict that this sex abuse scandel will be the start of the undoing of the Church. They can’t hide these priests or their victims in the internet age. It is a shame because the Church does do some amazingly good works, which may be totally undone by this scandal.

    It is also a great example of the whole insanity surrounding the “pelvic issues” by the Church. Just acknowledge that human beings are also sexually beings, deal with it and MOVE THE HELL ON.


    I did particularly like the “why the narcissistic obession with secrecy, power and control” bit. For a second there, I thought he was talking about our beloved

  2. “Do not be afraid. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.” Matt 10:26

  3. Well, I hope it is the complete undoing of more than just one flavor of church as well. The fewer churches there are around, the less abuse, fraud and fantasy will be preached and the sheeple can go back to animist roots and start praying to snakes, mountains, the sun or whatever.

    Now that’s something I can apply hopey-changy too!


  4. Thank you for this thorough evaluation. Somehow the Irish Church seemed to develop a weird Jansenist streak that thrived and intensified in the unprecedented position of power the church was given in post-independence Ireland. Sadly many prisests, nuns and brothers formed in that cauldron took their twisted ethos and contempt for children across the planet with them as we can see all too clearly in the sad revelatons coming out of Australia now.

  5. Not to in any way diminish any points made here by Fr Doyle, but children in the U.S. are 100 times more likely to be sexual abuse victims at the hands of public school teachers. Fact. But there is no ‘scandal’ in that news because the spirit of this age is: ABC (anything but christianity).

    1. Mahtomedi

      You are denying the real issue. The real issue is the ongoing coverup by the Catholic Church. Men protecting men. No one protecting the children. Priests having sex with little boys is Christian in your book?

  6. Predator priests and nuns

    We want people to know it happened, it’s happening today.

    Every 1-in-4 girls is sexually abused and every 1-in-6 boys.

    What are these crimes? Merely inappropriate touching? No. Not at all.

    We’re run across things we don’t want to know about. For example, a predator priest while telling a child she’s the bride of Christ, and threatening to have God kill her parents if she tells, and while reading to her from the bible, is raping her. This is called, ‘Catholic ritual abuse’ … it’s quite common. You’ll learn about it in this book. You’ll also learn about the priest who helped a teenager before her marriage to see ‘if her womb was big enough for child-bearing’, by checking it with his fist. You’ll learn of kids who contracted AIDS from priest, kids who were murdered by priests and nuns, women who were raped by priests and became pregnant, dioceses that paid for abortions of children, girls who were raped by Catholic priests and bore their children and raised them — everything you need to know to wake up, to step out of denial, to embrace the severity of the epidemic, and hold the perps and the institutions that support them, accountable.
    Rita Milla, was raped by a priest at 16 then passed around to be raped by a total of 7 priests. Then, was sent to the Philippines to have the child of one of them, then came back and raised her daughter. Her case settled in 2007, as part of the 650 million dollar suit Jeff Anderson won, representing 600 victims in Los Angeles.

    These kinds of stories, are, unfortunately, not uncommon … at all. As you will unfortunately, see. But can you imaging the horror and pain the child who is being raped, feels. Let us not feel so sorry for ourselves that we forget that we can stop the perpetuation of these crimes. Right now, State legislatures across the United States are considering amending their statute of limitations laws in ‘windows of opportunity’ so that adults who were raped as children can sue.

  7. I haven’t verified this yet…

    A child protection official for the Catholic Church has been caught with 4,000 pictures of child porn.

    Father-of-four Christopher Jarvis was arrested after uploading pictures of children being abused to a website.

    Married Jarvis, 49, a former social worker, was employed by the church following sex scandals about pervert priests.
    Advertisement >>

    His job was to monitor church groups to ensure paedophiles did not gain access to children in the church’s congregations.

    But he was caught by police in March with more than 4,000 child porn images on his home computer and his work laptop.

    He admitted 12 counts of making, ­possessing and distributing indecent ­images when he appeared before ­magistrates in Plymouth and is likely to face jail when he returns to court for sentencing next month.

    Jarvis, who has been sacked from his job as child safeguarding ­officer, worked the Diocese of ­Plymouth for nine years.

    Church spokesman ­David Pond said: “Mr Jarvis was suspended from his position as soon as the diocese became aware in March of the police investigation.

    “The Bishop took that action and since then the Church has worked closely with the police.”


  8. Army officers had drummer boys, and the church had altar boys. I go along with Stuck, we should worship snakes, as most people are afraid to touch them, so we would keep our distant. Snakes would not understand that we were worshiping them, they would just think we were acting stupid.

  9. That’s cute, Welshman.

    However, I fear that you are greatly misconstruing the argument. No one in their right mind worships priests. They are (clearly…) flawed individuals.

    That being said, I believe that there is still some value in the Catholic Church. No, they do not have a monopoly on the God-Head. And no, they are not thoroughly in touch with modern sentiments. Nevertheless, the institution is not without its social and moral value. Don’t blind yourself to such an extent that you can see in absolutes.

  10. Irrationalizer – the Catholic church is beyond salvation. That it systemically protects pedophiles is proof positive that it needs to be destroyed. It can have no moral and social value given its stance in this area.

  11. No, I don’t believe that the church is beyond salvation. There are too many good people involved in the institution for that to be the case. Various orders are doing wonderful things across the globe.

    Priests need to be able to marry. It would solve the numerous issues. Once again, normal people could join the ranks. Hell, the only reason priests have to practice ‘celibacy’ is that priests back in the middle ages had a nasty tendency to pass off stolen lands to their crotchfruit.

  12. Wow its great to see a whole group of people wasting time criticising the church and everyone around . how about using that time to make a difference in the world. its better to light a candle than blame the darkness. It isnt the Pope , the cardinal , the bishop or priest that makes the church, its you and I that do . Ask your self , what did you do for someone other than yourself or someone known to you today.? We have enough people being distructive in this world. how about being constructive for a change. You want to make a difference in the church ? you dont want abusers like this? then join the priesthood. Make your brothers and sons priests. they will do a better job. It takes guts nad a very big sacrifice to become a priest . if a doctor finds a part of a patients body damaged beyond repair he cuts that part off not kill the patient. Condemn the priests who committed the crime not the religion.

    1. Chris

      I’m not condemning the religion. The leaders of the church are criminals. Until they are brought to justice, the Catholic church will have no moral standing to instruct anyone on how to live their lives. Power corrupts. Wealth corrupts. I don’t need a religion to be good to my fellow man. I don’t need evil men telling me I’ll go to hell if I don’t contribute to their church.

  13. The Men that you call evil are just telling you what’s written in the Bible. You are not supposed to follow the preacher but the word of god.

    1. Chris

      Don’t worry. I’m not following the preacher. I’ll be ready to meet my maker when the time comes. The Cardinals, bishops, pastors and priests who committed these acts and covered them up will burn in hell if the bible is the word of the lord.

  14. This man is one of the few to speak with integrity about the abuse scandal who wears a collar and for that he has endured the wrath of the heirarchy. He advised the USCCB( Catholic bishops in USA) over 25 years ago that their neglect of the abuse problem would cost over a billion dollars. He was refused in every diocese by the bishops past and present his offer to advise in sex abuse situation. I will say that as a man who grew up in the Catholic school system I was never abused. However the dirty laundry of hidden crimes and pass the trash managment has enraged me very much. The Church acts like any major company with their Lie, Deny and Alibi modus operandi. Their arrogance and inability to admit wrongdoing is now their undoing. They have no credibility in my book. I agree with JQ that after reading the Phila. Pa. DA’s report that a gun would be involved and I can barely do it anymore either. It especially galls me that they tell others about their sex lives when evidence indicates sickos and screwballs were in the robes all these years. The reason the obsess about sex is that it is the most intimate way to control people. That sums up religion in general. CONTROL. Pay, pray and obey!
    I am still amazed to hear apologists out there like Bill Donahue of the Catholic League who can possibly defend these FELONIES. I am still amazed that there are still so many folks who can’t even look at this situation. They are still believing that the RC is JC’s church on earth and priests are still Christ on earth. I don’t know how to force people to look at the obvious but that is all one can do because I don’t think the RC can be reformed at all with the Clerical Culture in place and the theology that supports it.

  15. Guys please dont let these few priests destroy your faith in god. You made the mistake of trusting me put your trust in god.

  16. Its good to know. Its good to know . Dont lose hope ever. Í understand how you feel. I too was filled with a lot of anger and shame reading what these kids had to go through. But unlike you I am not willing to give up on the Church. This CHurch doesnt belong to priests like these, its our. There is a lot of evil in the world but we dont stop living do we? There is a lot of abuse and crime within our families, do we stop living as a family ? NO. Lets stop being just spectators and judge the church. This whole situation has made me want to change things. DO my part in the CHurch. take part in the running of the church and keep a tract of whats going on in and around me.
    Lets help the good guys do their job.


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