Mixed Response to Anglican Sex Register

ABC [Australia]
October 5, 2004

The Anglican Church decision to set up a national register of all church workers accused of sexual misconduct is already attracting criticism for not going far enough.

Members at the general synod meeting in Perth have unanimously agreed to screen all priests and lay workers and to set up a national register of all church workers accused of sexual misconduct.

The synod adopted the move to try to stop church workers from avoiding detection by shifting from parish to parish.

However Advocates for Survivors of Child Abuse spokeswoman Michelle Stubbs says a recent Senate inquiry recommended public disclosure of all child abuse cases by all churches and the Anglicans are still keeping their problems "in house".

"Child sexual abuse is a crime and any allegations, I feel, that the church's received about child sexual abuse should be reported immediately to the police," she said.

"The way I read the [Senate inquiry] recommendations was, all churches will open up their files completely and utterly for investigation in regard to child sexual abuse," she said.

"If they don't do that within six months, the committee of the Senate inquiry recommends a royal commission."

The Catholic Church is being urged to follow the Anglican lead.

Bravehearts founder Hetty Johnston says the Anglicans are showing a courageous lead and the Catholic Church should follow suit.

"To their credit, the Anglican Church have probably taken the lead in this," she said.

"They're the only church that has said, 'yes, let's have a royal commission' and they're the only church that have, by themselves, instigated three inquiries, which has harmed them as an institution, but I think has won them a lot of credit.

"They're [Catholic Church] hiding in the shadows. I say to the Catholic Church, come out."

Tasmanian campaigners are also urging other churches and community groups to follow the Anglican Church's example.

Steve Fisher, from the group Survivors Investigating Child Sex Abuse, says while the action is long overdue, the Anglican Church has made a good start in the fight to stamp out child abuse.

"They really need to start doing more, more quickly and let's hope that all the other churches around Australia actually take their lead and start doing something pro-active as well," he said.


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