Advocate for victims of clergy abuse plans demonstration in North Attleboro

The Sun Chronicle [Attleboro MA]

August 11, 2022

By Tom Reilly

The co-founder of a group that advocates for victims of clergy abuse is planning a demonstration and a call for “transparency” Friday in the case of a local Catholic pastor suspended while being investigated for alleged misconduct.

The allegations against the Rev. Rodney Thibault do not involve a minor, the Diocese of Fall River has said, but that’s not enough for Robert M. Hoatson, president of the New Jersey-based group Road to Recovery.

Hoatson says Bishop Edgar da Cunha needs to “inform the parishioners and school parents…and the general public immediately” about why he suspended Thibault as pastor. Thibault was also director of St. Mary’s Sacred Heart Elementary School.

Worshipers at Masses last weekend at the three churches that make up the Transfiguration of the Lord Parish were told that Thibault, who has been pastor since 2019, did is the subject of investigation into “alleged misconduct that is inconsistent with standards of ministerial behavior and in direct violation of the Code of Conduct for priests in the Diocese of Fall River.”

While the bishop’s letter, read at the conclusion of services, made a point of stating that the allegations against Thibault do not involve a minor, Hoatson, a former priest and himself a victim of clergy sexual abuse, said in a phone interview with The Sun Chronicle that “people are left in the lurch. We need to know the circumstances.”

The bishop’s letter and statements by the diocese have not said if the alleged misconduct involved another person or specified what violations took place. The code of conduct of the diocese enjoins clergy and volunteers from sexual activity with a vulnerable person, possession of pornography, any type of violence, misappropriation of church funds or any illegal activity.

Hoatson said Thursday night that he had not been in contact with local parishioners. He saw news reports of Thibault’s suspension as did Mitchell Garabedian, the Boston attorney noted for representing victims of sexual abuse suing the Catholic church. “We both saw it, we checked the news and we said we better go there and do something,” Hoatson said.

Garabedian will appear via Zoom at Friday’s rally, set for 11:30 a.m. outside St. Mary’s-Sacred Heart School, 57 Richards Ave.

The Fall River Diocese did not respond to a request for comment after work hours Thursday. Attempts to reach Thibault for comment have been unsuccessful.

Tom Reilly can be reached at 508-236-0332 or Follow him on Twitter @Tomreillynews