Child Abuse Royal Commission: Take Power Away from Church, Former Bishop Says

By David Marchese
ABC News
November 17, 2016

PHOTO: Bishop Brian Farran says he "agonised" about whether he should defrock the former Dean of Newcastle. (Fairfax Media: Stefan Moore)

A former Anglican bishop has told the child abuse royal commission the power to discipline clergy needs to be removed from the church because its morality "has been compromised".

Brian Farran held the position of bishop of Newcastle from 2005 until his retirement in 2012, and has been questioned about widespread abuse carried out in the diocese over several decades.

Bishop Farran told the commission of how he "agonised" over whether he should defrock his long time friend, the former Dean of Newcastle, Graeme Lawrence.

Mr Lawrence was ultimately defrocked in 2012, along with reverends Bruce Hoare and Andrew Duncan over what were described as "disturbing" allegations of abuse that allegedly occurred in the 1970s and 1980s.

The former bishop made a recommendation to the royal commission that an independent body be set up to deal with disciplinary issues.

"There is really huge potential of conflict of interest and I experienced that."

Bishop Farran said he did not think it was possible for the Anglican church to come together to develop its own national or state-based body to deal with abuse allegations.

"I think the morality of the church has been compromised," he said.

Mr Lawrence is expected to give evidence to the royal commission in coming days.

Bishop questioned over 'Satan's playground'

PHOTO: Former bishop of Newcastle, Brian Farran, giving evidence to the child abuse royal commission. (Supplied: Royal Commission)

Counsel assisting the commission Naomi Sharp asked Bishop Farran about his time as a student at St John's seminary training college at Morpeth in the 1960s.

The royal commission has already heard the college was nicknamed "Satan's playground" because of the widespread abuse that is known to have been carried out there over many years.

Ms Sharp gave the names of at least half a dozen known paedophiles who attended the college.

"Is it remarkable that so many child sex offenders attended the one theological education institution?" she said.

Bishop Farran agreed it was remarkable, conceding the selection processes were "quite poor".

The college was later closed down by the Newcastle diocese.

Parishioners furious about 'defaming' paedophile priest

PHOTO: Newcastle's Anglican Christ Church Cathedral. (ABC: Robert Virtue)

Bishop Farran was asked about his decision to go public in 2010 about the abuse committed by the late Hunter priest, Peter Rushton.

Rushton worked across the diocese from 1963, but the sexual abuse he committed was only acknowledged by the diocese after his death in 2007.

"People were furious with me," Bishop Farran told the commission.

"That I had defamed the dead."

Bishop Farran defended the time it took him to become aware of Rushton's abuse, blaming a lack of "corporate memory".

"Knowledge of these things may well have gone out the door."

Ms Sharp questioned him on the issue, naming at least four long-serving diocesan officials who would have had enough knowledge to brief the bishop.

Bishop Farran was excused by the commission after concluding his evidence, with the current assistant bishop of Newcastle, Peter Stuart, to be questioned tomorrow.








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