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The Chicago Archdiocese has turned over 6,000 pages of church documents to the lawyers of victims of clergy sex abuse. The victims’ attorneys have released the documents online, including complaints and personnel files on 30 priests, 14 of whom are now dead.
Rev. Thomas Doyle is a canon lawyer who has been an expert witness on behalf of clergy sex abuse victims. He joins Here & Now’s Robin Young to discuss the contents of the documents.
ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:
And now, a conversation that may not be for all ears. We're going to go to Chicago, where thousands of documents detailing clergy sex abuse allegations were made public just a little while ago today as part of a legal settlement. Attorney Marc Pearlman represents about 200 abuse victims in Chicago.
MARC PEARLMAN: The story today is that these documents reveal that leadership did engage in the systemic cover-up of these matters.
DEBORAH AMOS, BYLINE: They reveal that priests were moved from parish to parish, that they were sent off for treatment and then reassigned, that clerics' histories were hidden from the public. Victims spent nine years pushing for the release of these documents. The AP is calling it the broadest look yet at how one archdiocese responded to the scandal.
YOUNG: Father Tom Doyle is a canon lawyer who's testified as an expert witness on behalf of victims. He worked in the tribunal of the Chicago archdiocese for seven years. He joins us from his home in Virginia. And Father Doyle, obviously so important to the victims, to their backers, but it's almost become a cliche, you know, documents released revealing a cover-up and a scandal. What say you? Why do you see these as important?
THE REV. THOMAS DOYLE: Well, I believe they're important because they continue to report a situation that exists, not just in Chicago but throughout the Catholic Church. And, you know, maximum attention has to be given to the sexual abuse itself but also to the criminal response of the ecclesiastical leadership. This response has caused tremendous harm and pain to the victims. And now in Chicago we see 30, which is less than half of the documented cases that they have on record, 30 files released, which document will prove the legacy of mishandling and dishonestly by the ecclesiastical leadership in the archdiocese for decades, not just now.
YOUNG: Let's hear from one victim, Joe Iacono. He said he was abused by Father Thomas Kelly, whose name is on that list released today.
JOE IACONO: These files - what they mean to me is the truth, not what's coming from the archdiocese even as early as last week when the vicar stood up and said there was no cover-up. Maybe we didn't know what to do, but there was no cover-up. When are they going to learn? There was a massive cover-up.
YOUNG: Father Doyle, who was a part of the cover-up?
DOYLE: I beg your pardon? Who was a part of the cover-up?
DOYLE: The cover-up has to be attributed to the ecclesiastical leadership, to the archbishops and to those who worked closely with them. There would have been no cover-up had the archbishops, from Cardinal George going back as to Cardinal Cody, as far as I know, had they said we'll be completely open and honest, but they didn't. They engineered the cover-up.
YOUNG: Well, you...
DOYLE: They engineered the lying.
YOUNG: You mention Cardinal George, current cardinal. This does not include, this list and these documents that were released today don't include the case, for instance, of Father Daniel McCormack, who pled guilty in 2007 to abusing five children. He is not included in this list.
DOYLE: He is not included in this list. And ironically, when the cardinal sent a letter to his diocese on the 12th of January, he gives - paid specific attention to the case of Dan McCormack. And in that letter, he sent - he told his people things that were simply not true about the McCormack case.
The fact is, is that the review board of the archdiocese very clearly advised the archbishop - urged him not to place McCormack in pastoral ministry, for the welfare and safety of children. This was in 2005. And Cardinal George, against their advice, placed McCormack in ministry. And two to three months later McCormack was arrested for the second time, and that was the end of his career in Chicago.
But the cardinal claimed that he tried to dance around having gone against his review board's advice by saying, well, the investigation wasn't completed. It was confusing. None of this was true. And the review board sent him a letter complaining to him about the fact that his responses were not true.
YOUNG: Well, you talked about who was responsible for a cover-up. The documents don't include Vatican communiques. That was part of the deal the church struck with victims' lawyers. We know the Vatican is being questioned by a U.N. committee. We may someday see those files, what the Vatican said about these cases.
But in the meantime, how angry - in about the minute we have, how angry does this make up priest like you apparently working side by side at one point with one of the accused, not knowing?
DOYLE: How angry does it make - I think from my experience, it makes the good guys very, very angry because they're betrayed essentially by their archbishops. And these are the men whose first focus is the welfare of their people - the spiritual and emotional welfare of the people who they are trying to lead. And when this is violated by the men at the top, it makes - it leaves the priests in the trenches in a very vulnerable position. It's very embarrassing. It's very contrary to everything that's promised to the faithful and to the priests by the bishops and the archbishops.
YOUNG: You worked with Robert Mayer - Bob Mayer, I believe, who was known as Satan. And you were told...
DOYLE: Yeah. He was - that was one of the nicknames I heard given to him when I worked in the archdiocese. I wasn't sure then.
YOUNG: But no one ever told you it was because he was an abuser of minors.
DOYLE: No. No one ever told me that.
YOUNG: Yeah, yeah.
DOYLE: And I never knew about the sexual abuse that he perpetrated until the late '80s.
YOUNG: Yeah. Father Tom Doyle, a canon lawyer who testifies as an expert on behalf of victims as documents are released in Chicago today. Father Doyle, thanks as always.
DOYLE: Thank you.
YOUNG: It's HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.