Saturday, December 03, 2016

Jennifer Herrick: Exposing Abuse


Jennifer Herrick. Photo: Victoria Grant
The name of Jennifer Herrick deserves to be written large in the annals of the history of the Catholic Church in Australia
Her story of a secret and abusive relationship with Father Tom Knowles of the Blessed Sacrament Congregation reached its climax today, 4th Decemeber 2016  when a public apology and news of Knowles laicization was read to the congragation of St Francis Church in Melbourne.
Not only has she exposed the tip of the iceberg of clergy abuse of vulnerable women; Jennifer has also exposed the Achilles heel of the Catholic priesthood. Clericalism and male entitlement are the false idols of the Church which continue to attract a new generation of inappropriate clergy both home born and imported.
If we are to be honest about the Church we love and the power it has for compassion, hope, and dignity of all life then we need to confront the dark truth that roams our sanctuaries like a wolf in sheep's clothing.
Father Tom Knowles. Photo: Newcastle Herald
The beautiful historic Church of St Francis in Melbourne is now tainted by the memory of the abusive behaviour of Tom Knowles. His skill as a renowned liturgical leader is meaningless in the light of his history of neglect of the very vows he proclaimed in public. His removal from priesthood testifies to a culture that needs to be named and confronted. His congregation of the Blessed Sacrament Fathers will need to hold a public ritual of lament before I return to pray and worship in one of my favourite churches.
Is it ironic or a moment of grace  that this news is breaking as we "Orange the World" to end violence against women and girls? It would have been a welcome gesture if clergy adopted orange as the colour of their vestments during this campaign!!
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