Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Knick-Nack, Paddy-Wack Give The Priest A Bone

This is not a unique story, it shares many similarities to other cases around the globe. It is therefore neither remarkable, nor is it just, a decade old Christchurch story.

This is the case of Father Paddy Thwaites, a case that polarised his congregation & exposed an endemic policy of neutrality and obstinence by his Church towards his victims.

Thwaites was found guilty in May 1999 on two charges of indecency with a young boy, but the jury was unable to agree on a verdict for two further charges relating to the boys brother and another boy.

A 2nd later trial was held in relation to the two other boys, and on the 28th October 1999, Christchurch District Court Judge Colin Docherty sentenced Thwaites (then aged 54) to 2 ½ years jail for sexually molesting all three boys, in the period 1980s through to 1990s. The three boys were aged 12 or 13 at the time of the abuse.

In his summing-up at the second trial Judge Docherty said “On each occasion you befriended them, made them feel special and gained their trust and confidence”.

The Christchurch Press reporter noted at the time of his sentencing the Court was packed with Thwaites supporters. There to observe proceedings, The Catholic Bishop of Christchurch, and many of his former practitioners from St Teresa’s Church of Riccarton (pictured above)

Patrick Arthur Thomas Thwaites, Father Paddy as he liked to be called, was more than just a parish priest. He was credited with turning around lives, a ‘rugby, racing and beer’ man who was popular at the Marist Rugby Clubrooms & in all his parishes – firstly Timaru, than West Coast and lastly Riccarton.

Character evidence at the trial described him as ‘dynamic’.

Thwaites supporter, Dr Mick Goodwin dismissed the charges against his mentor as “preposterous, completely outrageous and inconceivable”.

Father Paddy himself declared his innocence to the charges, inside and out of court.

In the end his ‘not guilty’ plea was meet with deaf ears by the people who mattered most, the jury, who returned a unanimous guilty verdict at his second trial.

Court reports show one of his victims, was not motivated by vengeance, or necessarily to see Thwaites go to jail, he simply wanted to stop Thwaites preying on more boys under his care. He wanted the abuse to stop at him (and his brother) and had already taken his allegations to the Catholic Church two years prior.

These allegations were investigated by The N.Z Catholic Churches in-house Special Issues Committee, but ‘procedurally’ this committee were unable to progress his claims.

Under church policy in cases like this, an admission of guilt was required from the offending priest before action could be taken. So all Father Paddy had to say was “I didn’t do it”
& he was back indulging the freedoms of his position for another two years.

Thankfully that’s was until the civil authorities caught up with him and his predatory desires were curtailed.

To this day Thwaites claims he is innocent and he is currently enjoying his retirement courtesy of The Catholic Church.

At one stage, after his release Father Paddy returned to his old job ‘moonlighting’ as a funeral assistant at Lamb & Hayward Funeral Services.

He has never apologised to his victims.

Paddy remains a popular figure in church circles.

The Catholic Church, did offer professional help, confined to its ‘confused’ parishioners at St Teresa’s, reeling at the reality their favourite son was a convicted homosexual paedophile, but it was left to the N.Z tax-payer to treat the three real victims of his abuse.

Catholic Church spokesperson Lynsey Freer was quoted at the time saying “I think there is a great deal of confusion in people’s minds”.

Not enough confusion for the liking of one of the outraged Police Investigators involved with case, who took the radical step of withdrawing his children from St Teresa’s Primary School, upset at the way officials from the Church & School had ignored the hard evidence & continued to tacitly support Thwaites.

The veteran Police Investigator had interviewed all parties.

The Policeman had got to look into the eyes of Thwaites victims, hear first hand how he had enticed them with ‘props’ like the popular computer game ‘Leisure Suit Larry’.

This old man, he played three;
He played knick-knack 'on my knee,
With a knick-knack, paddy whack,
Give a dog a bone;
This old man came rolling home

He knew who was telling the truth, as did a jury of the priest’s peers.

So why drag-up an unremarkable decade-old case like this?

What can we hope to achieve by ‘scrapping at this wound’?

Simple, it is necessary to highlight the ‘environment’ that allowed this paedophile priest to operate, has not changed in the ensuing ten years since these offenses occurred, and since the thousands of similar shocking stories of Priest abuse sprung into the public domain, worldwide.

We still have a Church (and sadly, some of its practitioners) that operate in almost permanent ‘denial mode’.

The interests of the victims are still placed a distant second to that of the perpetrator & well below the interests of protecting the churches ‘good name’.

In-house investigations of impropriety within The Catholic Church achieve little to nothing, at worst relocation or a backroom job.

Irrespective of the heinous nature of their crimes, a priest is never fully defrocked, and mandatorily accepted back into the fold.

Therefore expect more Father Paddy’s.

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