Anglican Child Sex Abuse Shame
The Age [Australia]
May 31, 2004
Adelaide's Anglican Church was more concerned with protecting itself from child sex abuse claims than healing victims, an independent report has found.
The report, tabled in the South Australian parliament on Monday, was damning in its criticism of the church's handling of up to 200 alleged cases of sex abuse, along with claims of a paedophile network within the church.
The church's first priority when confronted with sex abuse claims was often "protecting the church at all costs," said the report by former Supreme Court judge Trevor Olsson and senior social lecturer Dr Donna Chung.
The church was "more concerned with its legal and insurance responsibilities than the healing of those who have been abused," they said.
The report was ordered by Adelaide's Anglican Archbishop, the Most Reverend Ian George, after two clergymen went public with claims of up to 200 cases of child sex abuse within the church.
Rev George said he was ashamed at the findings of the report, which said complaints of child sex abuse within the diocese dated back 50 years, but he resisted calls to resign.
The report said the Anglican Church was "uncaring towards victims and, at times, had the result of undermining the character of both victims and their families".
"The primary focus was essentially on the church and any likely effect upon it, or where relevant, its clergy," the report said.
"There was an emphasis on the complainant needing to `forgive' and `understand' the perpetrator's motives.
"The potential possibility of the involvement of the police, at the instance of the church, was seemingly abhorrent."
A South Australian police taskforce formed in May last year to investigate the allegations has so far found 143 victims of child sex abuse and 58 possible offenders.
The church's Adelaide diocese board was initially defensive when confronted with sex abuse claims, the report said.
"Often, its first priority seemed to be one of protecting the church at all costs," it said.
"Even to the extent, on some occasions, of warning complainants that they could be sued for defamation if their complaints could not be substantiated."
Rev George, who is due to retire in 10 weeks, said he was "ashamed of the way in which in some cases we have obviously fallen short of what we should have done".
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