SALEM — It’s not easy speaking up for what’s right.
Yet, because the Rev. Thomas Doyle, a Catholic priest, dared to confront the Church about its sexual abuse cover-up, and Horace Seldon, a former minister with the United Church of Christ, combated racism for more than 40 years, many people’s lives changed for the good.
Both Doyle, 68, and Seldon, 89, were honored last night with the 21st annual Salem Award for Human Rights and Social Justice, the first time that two individuals representing two separate causes won the award since it began in 1992. Before a capacity crowd of 177 at the Peabody Essex Museum, Mayor Kim Driscoll and Salem State University President Patricia Maguire Meservey joined board Chairwoman Julie Rose in presenting Doyle and Seldon each with a framed photograph of the Salem Witch Trials Memorial and a $5,000 check.
The award has been given each year to a modern-day champion of human rights who refused to stay silent in the face of injustice, symbolizing the lessons and tragedies of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.
“The Salem Award is always a highlight of the year for me because it says that Salem has learned a vital lesson from the witch trials,” Driscoll said. “Horace and Thomas have different gifts, and we’re thrilled to be able to honor and recognize them.”
Both recipients were nominated and selected for their sacrificial commitment to truth and justice.
“In this day and age, even considering how far we’ve come around these issues of sexual abuse and racism, we know there’s more to do,” Rose said. “These two men have had an extreme impact in these areas.”
Now a resident of Vienna, Va., Doyle was one of the first to speak publicly about how Catholic Church leaders in the early 1980s covered up the news that priests had been sexually abusing children. As he came forward with his concern for the victims, many Catholics mobilized to demand both explanations and change from Church leaders. Doyle is now recognized as one of the country’s most reliable sources on clergy molestation, testifying as an expert witness in legal cases and news reports. He continues to counsel survivors, lectures, writes and volunteers in numerous ministries.