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Monday, January 21, 2013

Father Tom Knowles returns to duty

The Catholic Church knew that one of their leading priests, Father Tom Knowles, had chosen a disabled girl from his parish as a sexual partner for 14 years. They apologised and gave her $100,000 compensation for ruining her life.  But he's been allowed to return to duty and allocated one of Victoria's busiest parishes - St Francis Catholic Church - in the central business district of Melbourne.

Jennifer Herrick, who has bilateral congenital hip dysplasia, first met Father Knowles when she was a shy 19 year old.  He was her family's priest at Our Lady of Dolours in the Sydney suburb of Chatswood. Three years after they met, Knowles initiated sex, an act she described as unpleasant and painful as it was her first experience.

"I now understand that my very severe vulnerability allowed him to exploit me by abusing his priestly powerful position for nearly two decades for his sexual needs" she said. 

She had a promising career as a high school teacher but Father Knowles destroyed that ambition. The situation became unbearable and she eventually withdrew from family and friends and broke down completely.  But in 2011, she had the courage to lodge an official complaint.

The church sent him on "administrative leave" for 16 months but he's back in business.  A senior Catholic church official, Michael Samon, sent a letter to Ms Herrick's lawyer that said Father Knowles had "committed to a prolonged, regular and very intensive and personally confronting programme of therapy."

Well that's alright then.

In the above photograph we see the pious priest preaching to his flock at St Francis last week, eyes closed, in deep communion with the Lord, and arms extended up to heaven.  It's enough to bring a tear to the eye.

Edit February 24, 2013:  In an embarrassing backflip, the Melbourne Archdiocese has removed Father Tom Knowles from one of the nation's busiest churches just weeks after reinstating him.