Independent investigation called for into allegations against Rev. Rodney Thibault

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    Robert Hoatson, co-founder and president of Road to Recovery, stands outside St. Mary's-Sacred Heart School on Friday to call for transparency on the allegations of misconduct made against Rev. Rodney E. Thibault of the Transfiguration of the Lord Parish. Staff photo

    By Max Bowen-max.bowen@northstarreporter.com

    Attorney Mitchell Garabedian and Robert Hoatson are asking that the North Attleborough Police conduct an independent investigation into allegations of misconduct against Rev. Rodney E. Thibault.

    In a demonstration held outside the St. Mary’s-Sacred Heart School Friday morning, Garabedian and Hoatson said that the Catholic Church cannot be trusted to “self-police” in this matter, and an independent investigation is needed to determine the truth.

    Leaving the public out in the cold only frustrates the public,” said Garabedian in a Zoom call on Friday. “Advocates, sexual abuse victims, the public, want to know the truth.”

    Hoatson is the co-founder and president of Road to Recovery, a New Jersey-based nonprofit that offers counseling and referral services to survivors of sexual abuse. Garabedian has represented sexual abuse victims in the Boston area during the Catholic priest sexual abuse scandal.

    Thibault heads the Transfiguration of the Lord Parish, comprised of three separate parishes—St. Mary’s, St. Mark’s, and Sacred Heart. In addition, he is in charge of St. Mary’s-Sacred Heart School. Earlier this month he was placed on administrative leave following allegations of misconduct.

    In a statement, Bishop Edgar da Cunha said that an investigation was underway into alleged misconduct “inconsistent with standards of ministerial behavior and in direct violation of the Code of Conduct for priests in the Diocese of Fall River.” No further details have been revealed, only that the allegations do not involve a minor.

    The Code of Conduct applies to a priest, deacon, religious, employee, or volunteer of the Catholic Church. It prohibits abuse of any kind, possessing or distribution of child pornography, theft or fraud, or any conduct that is illegal under the law.

    The Bristol County District Attorney’s Office has stated that it is not involved in the investigation. North Attleborough Police Chief Richard McQuade said that he has not heard of any criminal activity on the part of Thibault, but the NAPD would get involved if needed.

    Hoatson stood outside the school holding a sign that read “BP. Dacunha: Come Clean About Thibault.” A few people stopped by, some to speak against him and others to offer support. He said that he was not asked to go to the church, but Garabedian said he was contacted by a parent of a student at the school and sent a copy of a letter from Daniel Roy, Superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese of Boston. The letter offers no further information on the allegations.

    He was wondering if his child was at risk, or who is at risk,” said Garabedian of the parent.

    Hoatson said that the actions of Bishop da Cunha are typical for these incidents and that he is known to “protect his priests.” A former priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, Hoatson said he has attempted to help victims of sexual abuse and spoke against the Catholic Church’s actions. They plan to remain involved in this issue and Hoatson said he may return to North Attleborough, depending on the actions of Bishop da Cunha.

    Twenty years ago, we were promised transparency and it was a lie,” he said. “This is the cycle we are talking about, the same practices, the same policies are in effect. It will not stop until the parishioners will stand up in outrage.”