Survivors Network of
those Abused by Priests
Giving Voice to Victims
April 12, 2007
Whistleblower Catholic Priest Writes
to Top Baptists
He Warned Bishops of Sex Scandal 20 Years Ago; Now
He Prods Protestants to Act
Just Like Catholic Bishops, Baptist Officials Claim "No Authority"
Baptist President Repeats "Powerlessness" Claim; SNAP Disputes
A priest and canon lawyer who first warned of the Catholic sex scandal
in the mid-1980s has written to officials of the largest Protestant denomination
urging them to act now to better protect kids.
Father Thomas Doyle of Vienna, Virginia is prodding Southern Baptist officials
to consider that, to make children safer, they may need to find "a
new way" to institute accountability for Baptist clergy.
A self-help group for victims of clergy sex abuse has been urging Southern
Baptists to do what Catholics and other faith groups have done by establishing
a review board to hear molestation reports and instituting a zero-tolerance
The Chicago-based support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of
those Abused by Priests and other Clergy (SNAPnetwork.org), delivered
those requests to Southern Baptist officials last September. They took
no action on SNAPs requests, and said they have "no authority"
over autonomous Baptist churches.
Doyle points out that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops also claimed
to have "no direct authority" over any diocese, "each of
which is civilly and canonically independent." Yet in 2002, after
hundreds of victims spoke up and the scandal reached national proportions,
an oversight mechanism was nevertheless finally created.
Southern Baptist president Frank Page responded to Doyle that, while Catholic
bishops claimed to have "no authority," Baptist officials "truly
have no authority."
"Where theres a will, theres a way," said David
Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAPs national director. "If Baptist
officials genuinely cared about this problem, they would find a way to
effectively address it."
"Whether religious leaders claim no authority or truly
no authority, its still kids who are left at risk," said
SNAP-Baptist coordinator, Christa Brown of Austin, who maintains the StopBaptistPredators.org
website. "If kids are going to be made safer, Southern Baptists must
find a way to rid their ranks of clergy predators and to hold accountable
leaders who turn a blind eye. How many more wounded kids will it take
before Baptist officials take action?"
In related news, ABC's 20/20 is scheduled to spotlight some Baptist clergy
among other "Preacher Predators" on Friday, April 13.
A copy is shown below of Rev. Thomas Doyles letter sent March 30th
to Dr. Frank Page, President of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Dr.
Morris Chapman, President of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive
Committee. A link to Dr. Pages reply follows.
Dear Dr. Page and Dr. Chapman,
In the mid-1980s, I was a canon lawyer who attempted to warn Catholic
bishops about the looming clergy sex abuse nightmare. My warning went
largely unheeded until 2002, when the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
finally established the Office of Child and Youth Protection. By then,
countless more kids had been severely wounded, families devastated and
the Church itself was reeling from the extensive scandal.
I am concerned by what I fear may be developing as a similar pattern in
the nations largest Protestant denomination. Clergy sex abuse is
a scourge that knows no bounds of theology, denomination, or institutional
structure. To effectively address this scourge requires a strong cooperative
effort. Yet, in recent Baptist Press statements, I have seen that Southern
Baptist leaders disclaim that possibility on the ground that the Southern
Baptist Convention has "no authority" over autonomous churches.
While the hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church is different from
the congregational structure of Baptists, you should nevertheless realize
that your "no authority" argument is actually quite analogous
to what Catholic bishops were espousing prior to 2002.
To a large degree, a bishop considers himself as having dominion over
his own diocese i.e., as essentially being autonomous. In 2002,
the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops described it as an "extraordinary
and unprecedented" step when they created the Office of Child and
Youth Protection. Here are some of their published remarks:
"Much misunderstanding exists about the structure of the Catholic
Church and the way in which it functions both nationally and internationally.
The USCCB has no direct authority over any bishop or eparch in the United
States, nor does it have an infrastructure that is interconnected with
the management or operations of the countrys 194 dioceses and eparchies,
each of which is civilly and canonically independent. In developing the
Charter, the members of the USCCB recognized that without traditional
oversight mechanisms, the accountability called for in the Charter would
have to be established in a new way. Thus, the USCCB Office of Child and
Youth Protection, created as part of the Charter and monitored by a National
Review Board of lay Catholics, was charged with the task of developing
appropriate audit mechanisms to ensure that all bishops and eparchs comply
with the provisions of the Charter."
Thus, it would be a mistake to think that the structure of the Catholic
Church inherently allowed for the creation of an oversight mechanism.
Rather, it was the desperate need for a system of accountability that
drove the creation of an oversight mechanism, and that mechanism was created
outside the usual structure.
I have worked with a great many clergy abuse victims, and I know the horrible
harm that it causes in their lives. I hope you will consider the possibility
that, if children in Southern Baptist churches are to be made safer, accountability
for Southern Baptist clergy may also need to be established "in a
I was a military chaplain for many years and had the privilege of working
side-by-side with many devoted chaplains from your denomination. I learned
much from them about the Lords love and was consistently edified
by their dedication to Christ and their zeal for his Gospel message. I
hope they and other good ministers of the Lord in your denomination never
have to endure the nightmare the Catholic Church finds itself in because
of its institutional neglect of the Lords message.
I am writing not in a spirit of criticism but in a spirit of fraternal
hope that you take pains to avoid the incredible harm to your Church that
the Catholic Church did not avoid because of its arrogance and obsession
with power and image.
I pray that the Lord Jesus guide your hearts that you may find a way to
better protect children in the future and to help with healing for those
wounded in the past.
Rev. Thomas Doyle
Doyles letter and a link to Pages reply are posted at
of those Abused by Priests