Back in the pulpit: Catholic priest who abused a woman for 14 years gets re-instated

FOR 14 years – from the age of 22 – a young disabled woman in Australia endured sexual abuse at the hands of a Catholic priest.

Then, in 2011, Jennifer Herrick lodged a complaint against Father Tom Knowles. The Church accepted liability. Father Knowles’s superior, Father Graeme Duro, wrote to Ms Herrick acknowledging that she had:

Endured a great deal of emotional and psychological pain and suffering and that Fr Knowles’s inappropriate conduct was to your detriment.

The victim was paid $100,000 in compensation, and Knowles was put on “administrative leave”.

But, to the horror of clerical abuse victims and their advocacy groups, Knowles is now back in the pulpit after a senior NSW Church official, Michael Salmon, advised Ms Herrick’s lawyer in writing that Knowles had:

Committed to a prolonged, regular and very intensive and personally confronting programme of therapy.

'Reformed' abuser Father Knowles is free once more to deliver mumbo-jumbo  Photo: Angela Wylie

‘Reformed’ abuser Father Knowles is free once more to deliver mumbo-jumbo. Photo: Angela Wylie

That, said Salmon, was good enough for the Church to return him:

To full community life, and to public ministry.

The decision to allow to allow Knowles to return to full duties at St Francis’ in Melbourne’s central business district was described by Ms Herrick as:

Extremely distressing.

Ms Herrick was a shy 19-year-old with bilateral congenital hip dysplasia – a condition causing her to walk with a highly abnormal gait – when her family’s priest, Father Knowles, cultivated a relationship with her at his church, Our Lady of Dolours, in Chatswood. Ms Herrick’s later psychological reports say she was being groomed.

When Ms Herrick turned 22, Knowles, who was then 30, unexpectedly initiated intercourse with her, an act she describes as unpleasant and painful but one she felt powerless to stop because of his position. It was the first time Ms Herrick had had sex.

For the next 14 years, Father Knowles maintained a secret sexual relationship with Ms Herrick.

Said Ms Herrick:

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.

Ms Herrick allowed Father Knowles to have sex with her during a 14-year period and told no one about it. The sex was often hurried, aggressive and sometimes painful.

She withdrew from friends and family and grew increasingly anxious, ultimately having a breakdown and losing her promising career as a high school teacher. She said:

You feel you can’t say anything to anybody because he was a priest. When a young, disabled woman is caught up with a priest, you are trapped. I was denied an opportunity to develop normally as a young adult. I could never test out other relationships or have a family. It was a personal and pastoral betrayal.

In a report, Ms Herrick’s psychologist, Ana Grant, said the priest’s conduct had caused Ms Herrick serious post-traumatic stress disorder and fell:

Within the criteria for clergy perpetrated sexual abuse.

Knowles was photographed preaching to parishioners last week at St Francis’, which hosts 10,000 parishioners a week. In his career with the church, he has been appointed as the head of an order and held other senior roles in NSW and Victoria.

Father Duro said last week:

We express our deep regret at the hurt suffered by the complainant and the harm Fr Knowles’s behaviour has caused his fellow religious and the church; we believe everything … to alleviate the complainant’s suffering and to address Fr Knowles’s responsibility for his actions has been done and it is appropriate for him to return to public ministry.

Professor Ormerod, who has supported Ms Herrick, said that in reinstating Father Knowles the Church sent a “signal to the victim that her situation wasn’t serious” when in fact the abuse of trust by the priest had been extensive.

Professor Ormerod said he suspected the number of adults abused or in inappropriate relationships with their priests might be greater than the child abuse scandal.

A victims’ advocate, Chris McIsaac of Broken Rights, said:

A psychiatrist who targeted a patient sexually could face deregistration, so why not a clergyman?

Hat tip: John C

23 responses to “Back in the pulpit: Catholic priest who abused a woman for 14 years gets re-instated”

  1. jay says:

    can you imagine Exxon Mobil or any other ‘evil corporation’ re-hiring an executive convicted of on-the-job molestation??!!

    wow. just wow.

  2. Gary Hill says:

    “You feel you can’t say anything to anybody because he was a priest”

    This is the crux of the matter. It’s not the mumbo jumbo per se, plenty of people peddle that in one form or another and get laughed at, I’ve got no problem with that – the abomination is that she was placed in a situation she didn’t want to be in, but that she could not remedy because the perpetrator had some ‘authority’.

    This particular type of mumbo jumbo comes with the label of ‘authority’. That’s the problem.

  3. Angela_K says:

    Are the mainstream religions engaged in some kind of one-upmanship of vileness?

    It’s the Texas sex-offender pastor we were discussing a week ago all over again. Ken will be along soon to tell how it’s OK, forgiven his “sins” and other vacuous nonsense.

  4. D.F. says:

    This guy should never again get a job where he has any kind of power over people (and I do not think high school teacher was the right career choice for a young woman with this mental setup.)

  5. Daz says:


    What mental setup? Her disability is physical.

  6. Marky Mark says:

    (A psychiatrist who targeted a patient sexually could face deregistration, so why not a clergyman?)

    I think basically, they do not have enough young people entering the priesthood so they are stuck with what they have to do the job many had done before. Greed over rides all the goodness they try to perceive upon the public…and to hell with any young people abused.
    Over and over again we see religion is the root of all evil and abuse inflicted upon other humans.

  7. Marky Mark says:

    Angela_K said;
    (Ken will be along soon to tell how it’s OK, forgiven his “sins” and other vacuous nonsense.)

    Ken’s internet time would be better spent hanging around the “Christian Mingle” website. He can meet all the deviants and murderers they have forgiven there.

  8. Andrew Morriss says:

    Nothing would surprise me with the Catholic Church. What frightens me is how many of the evil bastards there are, because lets face it you would have to be to stay involved with an organisation like the Catholic Church.
    What would be wrong with attacking them back the way they attacked our kids. I saw a case in the US where a man went to the old peoples home of the mongrel who had sexually abused him and destroyed his life and bashed him and got off.
    Don’t they say an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth?
    I live in Melbourne where this evil bastard Knowles is stationed. What if the church burnt down or something? I know it has been burnt down before at least once.

  9. Robster says:

    How desperate must the catholics be to all of a sudden feel that this sad crooked little man is welcome back in their fold? Proves that be a cleric of any flavour is really a job for those that are unable to achieve anything of real value and subatance in any other vocation. I can see their “position vacant” ads from now on: Are you a no hoper, a loser, slightly dodgy owe money? On the run from the law? We have the job for you! For a start the police won’t recognise you in the nice colourful dresses we offer, you won’t need to mix with rational people so there’s no chance of being exposed. Join now, It’s Free! Call 1-800 POPE

  10. Trevor Blake says:

    Since the Bible says that disabled people can’t be Christians anyway (Leviticus 21:17-23, Deuteronomy 23:1) and since God says it’s best to just kill disabled people (2 Samuel 5:8) then if a disabled woman is raped by a priest it’s okay.

    Yay God!

  11. tony e says:

    This, and the previous article, just underline the sheer hatred that the rcc has towards women.

    The simple solution would be to encourage women to leave this rank organisation, but, that will be far harder to achieve than an genuine miracle.

  12. Stephen Mynett says:

    Trevor, good point. Back in the days when we had a Sunday service forced upon us in hospitals I put this to the visiting sky pilot, I also added that their common excuse for people not being cured at Lourdes was that their faith was not strong enough but, how could it be if god would not recognise them anyway.
    I cannot remember what the long, rambling and incoherent reply was but I am begining to think I have actually met Ken face to face.

  13. RabbitOnAStick says:

    Having sex with any one against their will is rape.

    I remain confused why this scum is not in prison. And hasn’t been prosecuted. And if not why not.

    “When Ms Herrick turned 22, Knowles, who was then 30, unexpectedly initiated intercourse with her, an act she describes as unpleasant and painful but one she felt powerless to stop because of his position. It was the first time Ms Herrick had had sex.”

  14. RabbitOnAStick says:

    I know of no position whereby the ‘contract of employment’ – ridiculous celibacy – is so regularly broken by the ’employees’ that they remain in their positions, get moved “out of the way” for such vile despicable crimes save where the employer is a religion.

    And it seems such a hard thing to criticise, bring into the open, prosecute or uncover.

  15. tony e says:

    Sorry to be slightly off topic but this was too good not to share.

    Lets see Bill Donohue put a spin on this…..

  16. RabbitOnAStick says:

    And here is the cafflick logic for celibacy.

    Why Are Today’s Priests Celibate?
    Today priestly celibacy has a more practical function. With the church as the priest’s only family he is spared from conflicts arising between the needs of his biological family and his church family. He doesn’t have to choose between his daughter’s softball playoff game and an important church function. He won’t be torn between responding to an emergency at 3AM and staying home to tend his sick child. Also, since the priest isn’t anyone’s biological father, the parish feels comfortable calling him their own father.

    Be sure to change ‘church function’ with ‘child rape’.

    Priestly Celibacy is Practical..
    Being without a spouse and children makes it easier for the priest to move from place to place as he is called to serve many parishes throughout his ministry. Celibacy also prevents any complications which may arise regarding heirs and the inheriting of property upon the priest’s death. And without the stresses and obligations of raising a family, the priest is better able to handle the exceptionally demanding calling of priesthood.

    Be sure to change the words ‘place to place’ with ‘[abuse] child to child” and ‘serve’ with ‘screw’ in’ otherwise it makes no sense.

  17. Stonyground says:

    If it true that Knowles was re-enstated due to the RCC being desperately short of priests then there is hope. If no young people want the job, then within a generation there will be no priests left. I suspect that they will start to import them from the third world, but I would think that doing so is likely to cause them all kinds of unforseen problems.

  18. Lucy 1 says:

    Fascinating to see they mentioned inheritance. I think that was where it started, and all the other stuff was fluffed around it. Oh yes, and they hate the very idea of sex. They know that if you get people by the short and curlies, you have their full attention. So if an organisation makes rules for an aspect of human life which is most importnat and personal. It means the org has super tight control over their people. There is NOWHERE, the creepy rcc does not go.

    And why don’t the foul rcc look at other churches with no rule of celebacy? Orthodox, c of e?

  19. Broga says:

    ROAS: This justification for priestly celibacy is utter bollocks. In their priestly attempt to be celibate they are obsessed with sex, driven to think about it and at a prey to their fantasies. If you are a normally physically functioning man, I leave women to speak for women, you want sex; you want to satisfy that primary natural urge. And these supposed celibate priests are driven to do whatever they have to in order to meet their needs.

    It is just horrible that under the cloak of secrecy, the result of the hypocritical dictat of their appalling church, they are driven to seek out the most vulnerable, the weakest and those in their power. That this cynical and pitiless brute has been reinstated would be beyond the pale if we didn’t realise he functions within an organisation that has no understanding of morality. And it is ready to flout whatever minimal awareness that it has of right and wrong.

  20. OurSally says:

    >I suspect that they will start to import them from the third world

    indeed. I live in south Germany, a very catholic place. The shortage of priests is so severe that parishes are being merged in groups of 3 or 4, and when a priest retires, as happened here a few years ago, there is no-one to replace him. The village where I live had an Indian priest for a few years because they couldn’t find a German. He was very orthodox and drove a few young people away, especially the altar girls, who said he was nasty to them.

  21. Georgina says:

    oh please, why the surprise. We all know that patriarchal religions consider rape to be the victims’ fault.
    When the victim is a female, she probably ‘incited’ the poor man, as to children, well, they don’t understand what is happening, so it cannot hurt them.

    @jay, she was not ‘molested’, she was raped. I hate euphemisms.

  22. […] Back in the pulpit: Catholic priest who abused a woman for 14 years gets re-instated […]

  23. HIbiscus says:

    So daz, apperently you do not understand that physical disability is also mental disabllity?