Priest Accused of Abuse "Greatly Loved"

By Rebekah Ison
The Advertiser
November 16, 2016

A former Newcastle Anglican bishop says "vehement" supporters of a priest accused of abusing children were out to get him from the moment a professional standards probe began.

The abuse commission has heard a group of Newcastle parishioners are concerned about the process that led to the highly influential former Dean of Newcastle Graeme Lawrence being defrocked in 2012.

"They were out to get me," Bishop Brian Farran, who was the head of the diocese from 2005 to 2012 and oversaw the defrocking of Lawrence, said on Wednesday.

"I got this anonymous text ... saying, 'Have a great holiday. Come back and resign'.'"

The royal commission has previously heard Lawrence, who had been the second most senior priest in the diocese, faced allegations of abuse against numerous children.

The diocese's former solicitor Robert Caddies on Wednesday said he contributed $1500 to Lawrence's legal fund after he was defrocked and would have contributed more if he had the means.

In an emotional monologue, the lawyer of 45 years described Lawrence providing "wonderful pastoral care" upon the death of his mother.

"This man had been our priest for 24 years and he had lived through so much with so many people," Mr Caddies told the commission.

"He was greatly loved for what he did for people, and there are very few priests that would have that giftedness to show that kind of compassion and care that he showed to my family."

Mr Caddies was among a group of parishioners who made complaints about Bishop Farran bringing the diocese into disrepute by announcing to the media that deceased Father Peter Rushton had been determined a serial child sex offender.

He was also a signatory to letters sent to senior Anglicans and the royal commission, which raised concerns about current bishop Greg Thompson going on radio and telling possible survivors they would be believed if they came forward.

He said he was concerned the announcement denied alleged perpetrators due process and that it was not the group's intention to necessarily bring down the bishops.

He was asked whether he'd been trying to punish Bishop Farran for bringing the abuse allegations into the light of day.

"I'm punishing him for the way it happened, rather than the fact of it happening," Mr Caddies replied.

A survivor has previously testified Bishop Farran told him he had decided not to defrock Lawrence because of "all the parishioners who would be upset if he did".

But he relented when the victim insisted, it heard.

Lawrence is expected to give evidence later in the hearing, which will continue on Thursday.








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