Sunday, 20 January 2013

And the hierarchy claim they get it: the disease strikes again in Melbourne!***

Has the hierarchy learnt the lessons of the abuse crisis?

It seems not if a story in today's Age is anything to go by.

**Update: it seems this story says more of some of the other parties involved than the diocese - see below.

Priests in abusive sexual relationships

The story alleges that a priest is back on normal parish duties after conducting a sexual relationship with a vulnerable young women (who received $100,000 in compensation) for some 14 years.

And the explanation given as to why he should be permitted to return to ministry after 18 months leave for s sin the psychologists say fit all the criteria of abuse:

"...a senior NSW church official, Michael Salmon, advised Ms Herrick's lawyer in writing that Father Knowles had ''committed to a prolonged, regular and very intensive and personally confronting program of therapy'' and he would ''return to full community life, and to public ministry''.

The Church concerned, St Francis', Melbourne, is run by the Blessed Sacrament Congregation.

Indeed, it seems the priest concerned, Fr Tom Knowles, who, unsurprisingly seems to have some interestingly heterodox opinions on the blessed sacrament, was the 'community leader' there until 2011 when the women concerned lodged a complaint after she had a breakdown and lost her job.

How can they get away with it?

In this case the sex abuse protocols do not apply, because the young woman in question was 22 when the by all acconts abusive and exploitative 'relationship' started.

Most of the focus to date has been on child sex abuse.

But breaches of celibacy more generally surely need to be taken seriously as well.

Priests, like all Christians are called to holiness.  Yet they must also be held to a higher standard (hence those seven years or so of formation), because of their duty to teach and lead, which surely has to be by example as well as words.  And anyway, will priests who disregard basic morality be inclined to preach it?

Moreover, priests who engage in clandestine relationships, whether involving an inherent abuse of power (and this one seems to have been) or not inevitably get caught in an ever growing spiral of lies, other sins and consequences.

What happens if the woman becomes pregnant for example?

I've heard all too many stories of the hierarchy becoming involved in the - yes you heard it - cover up.

Professor Neil Omerod of ACU sees such cases as the next big scandal, potentially bigger than the child abuse one.  I agree.

Time for the hierarchy to get its act together on priestly morality more generally, and give those guilty the boot.

Update

I've been advised by Archbishop Hart that the attempted return to ministry of Fr Knowles was done without the knowledge of diocesan authorities, and his faculties have since been removed.

11 comments:

A Canberra Observer said...

So is this a decision of the Blessed Sacrament Fathers alone or did the Arbp of Melbourne get a say? Did he know?

I agree with you - really how dumb can they be? Depressing for the ramifications that will come.

Matthias said...

I am appalled at this decision and it makes all the talk regarding the Royal commission a joke. Therefore in protest i will not attend Mass again at St Patrick's nor attend any Mass where a member of the Hierarchy is present. have they learnt nothing from the quest of the Spirituali-Cardinal pole and friends ,nor the Reformation . Pray that those who made this decision retire.

Matthias said...

Further more pleasr find here a link at Cranmner which is actually sent from a Catholic website http://archbishop-cranmer.blogspot.com.au/.

paul said...

From an email I wrote to Fr Duro SSS:
"Firstly this man is a Catholic priest and they are not supposed to do such things, let alone groom a woman, encourage a relationship of a sexual nature and lead her on in that sexual relationship for 14 years.

Secondly: That man controlled her sexually, socially and personally during her prime child bearing years of adult life. He took away her chance of marriage in her 20s and children, a basic human quality which is encouraged by the Christian church. (except amongst Clergy and Religious Sisters and Brothers).

Thirdly: no doubt Ms Herrick's Catholic faith, especially faith in Clergy as trustworthy citizens, has been eroded. I would be very surprised if Jennifer Herrick ever set foot in a Catholic church ever again. Once again something the Catholic Church encourages. Sunday Eucharist. Not for her and other victims I am sure.

Fourthly: Are we the general public, or indeed the people in the pews, expected to believe that after 14 years of abuse that it "is appropriate for him to return to public ministry.'' following 16 months of confronting counselling? Jennifer Herrick was 'confronted" by Knowles daily for 14 years and lived with it for a decade or so more before she took action about this confrontation."
I then asked Fr Duro this question:
"How can you and your brother Priests and Brothers of the SSS agree that Thomas Knowles is an honourable, good, holy and faithful leader of the People of God at the altar of the Holy Eucharist and in any Church community in Australia or indeed any where?"

R J said...

The late William F. Buckley once famously observed that he would far rather be governed by the first 100 people listed in the Boston telephone book than by anyone morally misguided enough to teach at Harvard. Likewise, it is far easier to place a certain basic trust in the administrative skills of Sydney and Melbourne newspaper reporters than in the Australian hierarchy en bloc. Why not simply give mitres to such media personnel, since it is quite obvious that they are better informed about sex-crazed priests - and more willing to act against them - than most of the existing prelates are?

R J said...

The late William F. Buckley once famously observed that he would far rather be governed by the first 100 people listed in the Boston telephone book than by anyone morally misguided enough to teach at Harvard. Likewise, it is far easier to place a certain basic trust in the administrative skills of Sydney and Melbourne newspaper reporters than in the Australian hierarchy en bloc.

Why not simply give mitres to such media personnel, since it is quite obvious that they are better informed about sex-crazed priests - and more willing to act against them - than most of the existing prelates are?

Matthias said...

After a bollocking in Christian love from my godfather , i recant of not attending St patrick's but instead will boycott St francis,seeing as it is the BSF provincial who reapointed Fr Knowles and not the archBishop,who is perhaps also wondering why he is wearing the target sign and not the provincial. However perhaps ++ Hart could ask the Provincail for an explanation. i heard Knowles preach at a mass late last year i now realise, and I was left feeling cold and the Mass was singularly unimpressive.

A Canberra Observer said...

Arbp Hart could remove Fr Knowles faculties in the Melbourne archdiocese ...
If he was really brave he would say, "if you don't remove Fr Knowles your whole congregation can go too ...". But that would be extraordinarily brave, or fey.

Tancred said...

I think R J 's comment is one of the most beautiful I've seen in a long time.

Antonia Romanesca said...

Yes, it is very shocking and deeply depressing. One wonders what He is making of it. Of course it is going to reflect on our Lord Archbishop & most out there in non- Catholic Melb and Vic will assume he placed the chap there, "discreetly uplifting him from his travails in Sydney, post- therapy".....One has to agree with the sentiments of Tancred Lion Rampant and RJ: thanks be to God Almighty, for a free press! Come to think of it, how many clerical sexual atrocities would still be well hidden, without the persistent efforts of our worthy quality dailies??

Antonia Romanesca said...

Yes, it is very shocking and deeply depressing. One wonders what He is making of it. Of course it is going to reflect on our Lord Archbishop & most out there in non- Catholic Melb and Vic will assume he placed the chap there, "discreetly uplifting him from his travails in Sydney, post- therapy".....One has to agree with the sentiments of Tancred Lion Rampant and RJ: thanks be to God Almighty, for a free press! Come to think of it, how many clerical sexual atrocities would still be well hidden, without the persistent efforts of our worthy quality dailies??