Child Abuse Royal Commission: Church Official Denies Trying to "Destroy" Newcastle Anglican Bishop

By David Marchese
ABC News
November 16, 2016

PHOTO: A royal commission hearing into child abuse within Newcastle's Anglican Church has resumed in Sydney. (AAP: Darren Pateman)

A former senior member of Newcastle's Anglican church has told the child abuse royal commission he has not been actively trying to 'destroy' the career of a bishop working to uncover child abuse in the diocese.

A hearing into the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse's 42nd case study has resumed in Sydney after a two-month break, with two former bishops and the current bishop of Newcastle, Greg Thompson, expected to give evidence.

The commission has previously heard of widespread child sexual abuse within Newcastle's Anglican Church, spanning several decades.

Former diocesan solicitor Robert Caddies resumed his evidence this morning, where he was questioned about a "bloc" within Newcastle's cathedral seeking to undermine Bishop Thompson.

Mr Caddies was probed about a letter signed by him and sent to the royal commission earlier this year raising "grave concerns" about Bishop Thompson.

"Can we cut to the chase, you were seeking to have him removed, weren't you?" asked commission chair, Justice Peter McClellan.

"It may have been that but not necessarily," Mr Caddies replied.

Justice McClellan then questioned Mr Caddies about whether Bishop Thompson was being targeted because he was working to "face up to the problem [of abuse] and deal with it".

Mr Caddies denied the suggestion before counsel assisting the commission, Naomi Sharp, intervened.

"Are you just making this up as you go along Mr Caddies?" Ms Sharp asked.

He assured the commission he was not.

Deep division within church acknowledged

PHOTO: Robert Caddies giving evidence to the child abuse royal commission. (Supplied: Royal Commission)

The commission was shown a letter signed by Mr Caddies and addressed to the Metropolitan of the Anglican Church in Australia.

The letter refers to revelations made by Bishop Thompson on the ABC last year that he too was a victim of abuse, at the hands of former Bishop Ian Shevill when he was 19 years old.

The letter questions why Bishop Thompson took no action at the time of the abuse "thus potentially exposing other members of the diocese to danger".

"The picture we now have of course is of a deep division in the diocese," Justice McClellan said.

Mr Caddies responded that there was "certainly a great unhappiness" and some of that related to the de-frocking of former Dean of Newcastle Graeme Lawrence in 2012.

It was put to Mr Caddies that he was attempting to "undermine" Bishop Thompson.

"If you mean by undermine to destroy someone, it certainly wasn't that," he replied.

Mr Caddies has already admitted to being friends with Mr Lawrence and contributing to fundraising efforts organised by members of the church to help him fight his de-frocking.

He then admitted to the commission that based on the evidence he now accepted Mr Lawrence abused children.

Mr Lawrence is expected to give evidence at some stage over the next five days.

They were out to get me: former bishop

PHOTO: Father Peter Rushton died in 2007 and was later named as a notorious paedophile in the Hunter region.

The commission questioned Mr Caddies about a decision made by the former bishop of Newcastle, Brian Farran, to speak publicly about the late paedophile priest Peter Rushton.

Rushton died in 2007 without having ever faced child sexual abuse charges, despite abuse allegations being raised with the church in 2003.

Justice McClellan grilled Mr Caddies about his decision to make a formal complaint about Bishop Farran to church authorities after the bishop told the Newcastle Herald that Rushton was a child sex offender.

McClellan: Is it fair to say that you and others didn't like what he was doing?

Caddies: We didn't like the way it was done, rather than what he was doing.

McClellan: You didn't like him putting it into the public domain?

Caddies: Not without proper investigation.

Ms Sharp put to Mr Caddies he was "punishing" and "intimidating" Bishop Farran for speaking out in the media but Mr Caddies said he did not believe punishing was "the right word".

Brian Farran was then questioned by the commission about his time as Bishop of Newcastle between 2005 and 2012, which he described as a "terrible time".

Bishop Farran said the power bloc that gathered around Mr Lawrence were vehement in their opposition to him.

"They were out to get me," he said.

"They went out of their way ... to discredit me as much as they could.

"But I always went to the cathedral. I wasn't going to let them beat me."

The commission has adjourned for the day, with former Bishop Farran to continue his evidence tomorrow.








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