'Sex abuse victims still facing pushback and resistance from church', warns priest
Fr Tom Doyle was one of the first people to highlight the sexual abuse of children by priests in the 1980s
A priest who has campaigned on behalf of clerical sexual abuse victims for more than three decades has criticised the Catholic Church's "toxic and erroneous teaching" on human sexuality.
Canon lawyer Fr Tom Doyle linked the crisis over the church's mishandling of allegations of abuse to "a misconception of the clergy and bishops as the essence of the church" who are "essential for salvation".
He warned there is "still plenty of pushback and resistance in the church" toward abuse victims, adding: "The good of the Church really means the good of the ecclesiastical aristocracy."
Speaking at a webinar 'Stolen Lives: Abuse & Corruption in the Catholic Church', which was hosted by the lay reform group, Root & Branch Reform, he said: "It is not a few bad apples in the barrel that is the problem, it is the barrel."
In his view, "the violation of the most innocent in the church is a scourge that neutralises everything that is Christian about Catholicism".
Fr Doyle, who served as a pilot in the US air force and was one of the first people to highlight the sexual abuse of children by priests in the 1980s, hit out at the "unrealistic idea that priests and bishops are exalted sacred beings" which he said still exists in the church and paralyses a lot of people from speaking out.
The priest said this belief, which had created "a clerical aristocracy" in the church, had to be changed.
"We all know what clericalism is. It is a disease. It is a virus the Catholic Church has, which means the clergy and the clerical way of life and its values come before anything. It is total nonsense," he said.
Appealing to lay people to "stop tolerating a clericalised church", he said they had to challenge the hierarchy when they saw evidence of clericalism which "fuelled the constant, systemic, nightmare of child and adult sexual violation by clerics and non-ordained religious".
The abuse crisis also stemmed from an emphasis on the protection of the prestige, power, and the economic resources of the hierarchical system of the church, he said.
Fr Doyle said at the top of the hierarchy was "a tiny aristocracy running the whole show while the rest of us are down at the bottom".
"If you look at the positions of power, the men who actually call the shots, about 3,000 men run the Catholic Church," he said.
"They are all bishops. None of them have been married, presumably.
"Certainly, none of them have been parents presumably, because if they had been parents, they would have understood clearly the horror of what was happening to children."
On the issue of mandatory celibacy, he told the webinar: "It seems to me that in some ways you have got to be more Christ-like to be a husband or a wife or a parent than you do to be a priest because you need to learn what it means to be unselfish.
"You have to constantly get up in the middle of the night to take care of sick kids, you put up with your kids when they make mistakes, you bail them out of jail, you do all of these things."
He warned the majority of abuse victims are still suffering in "cocoons of guilt, shame, fear and silence" because studies showed only 37pc of those who were violated ever came forward.
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