Anglican Bishop apologises to abuse victims: ‘The Diocese must do better’

Stuff [Wellington, New Zealand]

March 18, 2021

By Mariné Lourens

Christchurch’s Anglican Diocese allowed clergy to continue in their duties despite being aware of allegations of abuse against them, an inquiry has heard.

Bishop Peter Carrell, giving evidence at the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care on Thursday, said he was aware of 13 reports of abuse that had involved the Diocese, ranging from verbal harassment to rape.

This does not include abuse complaints against former Christchurch priest Rob McCullough from the 1970s and 80s, which were settled financially in 2003.

In relation to the 13 reports Carrell was aware of, he said the approach to the claims varied. In many instances he was not able to determine how the allegations were dealt with at the time due to poor record keeping.

“There have been historic instances where a perpetrator’s [church] licence or permission to officiate (PTO) was endorsed despite the Diocese’s knowledge of the allegations of abuse. In some of these situations, the perpetrators were required to undergo professional supervision or regular therapy.”

Carrell said it was also not unusual for perpetrators to have died by the time their offending was brought to the attention of the Diocese.

He was unable to specify if and how redress had been provided to the survivors in these cases due to poor record keeping.

“As far as I am aware, the Diocese has not had a strategy in relation to how it approaches and responds to reports of abuse,” he said.

This could be seen as a “strength”, he said, because it allowed for each case to handled according to its unique facts and circumstances.

The Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch, Peter Carrell, says the Anglican Church has “historically been slow rather than fast learners”. Ian McGregor / Stuff
The Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch, Peter Carrell, says the Anglican Church has “historically been slow rather than fast learners”. Ian McGregor / Stuff

Carrell acknowledged the Christchurch Diocese and the Anglican Church in general had “historically been slow rather than fast learners”.

He apologised to all survivors of abuse and said the abuse they suffered was unacceptable.

“It is also unacceptable that the Diocese has not always responded appropriately or fairly when you have approached the Anglican Church about your abuse. The Diocese must do better than we have done in the past.”

Jim Goodwin, a former Christ’s College student who last year testified before the commission about the abuse he suffered at the school, said he believed the Anglican Church sincerely wanted to do better and make the necessary changes.

Goodwin was in fifth form (year 11) when he was abused by senior students who made him drink several litres of warm, salty water, caused him to vomit blood, and violated him with a broom handle. He did not report the abuse to anyone at the time.

Goodwin said he hoped one of the inquiry outcomes would be to give people clear direction on where to go if they were victims of abuse, or aware of abuse happening to someone else.

“When I was abused, there was nowhere to go. The police would’ve told me I am wasting my time. And if I told the school, those boys would have given me hell.”

He said was hopeful the royal commission would be the answer survivors needed. “I think this is the best opportunity in generations we would ever have to make a good go of it.”