Church admits it failed to protect boys from paedophile priest Raymond Cheek

By Laura Gartry And Roxanne Taylor
Radio Australia
November 29, 2016

Allan Lowe (R) outside a church in Albany, the year before he was abused by Raymond Cheek.

The Anglican Church was aware of the inappropriate behaviour of a serial paedophile priest as far back as the early 2000s but failed to act, the Diocese of Bunbury admits.Law, Crime and Justice:Sexual Offences:ALLLaw, Crime and Justice:ALL:ALLLaw, Crime and Justice:Courts and Trials:ALLCommunity and Society:Religion and Beliefs:AnglicansLaw, Crime and Justice:Royal Commissions:ALLAustralia:WA:Bunbury 6230Australia:WA:Perth 6000Australia:WA:Albany 6330Australia:WA:ALLABCLaura Gartry and Roxanne TaylorThe Anglican Church was aware of the inappropriate behaviour of a serial paedophile priest as far back as the early 2000s but failed to act, the Diocese of Bunbury admits.

The Anglican Church was aware of the inappropriate behaviour of a serial paedophile priest as far back as the early 2000s but failed to act, the Diocese of Bunbury has admitted.

Former Anglican priest Raymond Sydney Cheek was found guilty on Monday of sexually abusing five boys, including altar boys and boy scouts, over a 30-year period from 1955 to 1985.

Cheek will be sentenced in February next year.

Bishop of Bunbury Allan Ewing today conceded the church had failed to protect the boys, despite becoming aware of rumours of Cheek's inappropriate behaviour 15 years ago.

"We certainly became very aware of it in the early 2000s and whilst he was within the Perth Diocese," Bishop Ewing said.

Cheek was not stripped of his holy orders until 2014. He was charged by police in 2015.


Bishop Ewing confirmed a complaint was made against Cheek to the Diocese of Perth in 1996, but it was not acted upon by the church at the time as it related to an incident that occurred before Cheek was ordained as a priest.

Another one of the victims involved in the court case approached the church about his ordeal in 2010.

He said complaints were often treated as rumour because they had not been proven in court.

"Previously we the church were reluctant to act on rumour, and I think the church has now learnt very clearly that we cannot wait for, as it were, the sort of proof that might be in a court of law before action is taken," he said.

The case comes at difficult time for the church, after the Anglican Archbishop of Perth Roger Herft temporarily stood aside in October to focus his attention on the royal commission's inquiry into the Diocese of Newcastle.

In his evidence in August, Archbishop Herft denied protecting de-frocked former Newcastle priest Graeme Lawrence, who was accused of child sexual abuse, but said he would not report child sexual abuse allegations if he did not know the name of the alleged victim.

Altar boy groomed

Allan Lowe was making his devout Anglican parents proud as an altar boy at St John's Church in Albany when Raymond Cheek molested him in 1963.

He had moved alone as a 12-year-old from his family farm in Needleup after being awarded a high school scholarship in Albany, and was encouraged to join the Church of England Boys Society (CEBS) by then-deacon Raymond Cheek.

"Ray was about 30, unmarried and very friendly. He was very, very kind to me when I told him I was away from home and homesick," Mr Lowe said.

"He also used to invite members of CEBS for dinner at his house … he was a very good cook and I really liked him.

"But now looking back on it, I think he was just grooming me and waiting for an opportunity."

Keen to impress his parents, Mr Lowe became an altar boy and used to assist Cheek in the church services.

"One Sunday after the 11 o'clock Eucharist service, we were in the vestry changing out of the robes we wore in the service and that was when he put his arm around me and basically tried to molest me," he said.

"He shoved his hand down the front of my trousers and he obviously had an erection and he was simulating sex with me through my clothing.

"The only way to make him stop was to start screaming and when he let me go, I got out of the church as quickly as I could and I never went back."

Parents doubtful about abuse

When he returned to the family farm for the holidays he told his parents why he had stopped going to church.

"They sort of half believed me but they were very doubtful because they had this natural respect for clergyman," Mr Lowe said.

Mr Lowe said his parents raised the "shameful" incident with church vicar Reginald Arrantash, but the vicar "assured them that we were just a group of naughty little boys who had decided we didn't want to go church anymore and this was a way to get out of it."

"My parents believed him, rather than me. That caused problems between me and parents, my father in particular," he said.

"I know that there were two other of my friends at school … who both stopped going to church around the same time for the same reason … trying to keep away from him.

"They told me later they had been molested by Cheek."

Bishop Ewing said the church had no record of Mr Lowe's parents' complaint and he had "every reason to believe that what Allan has told us is true."

Mr Lowe believes the church hierarchy at the time knew Cheek was a paedophile, which is why it moved him 10 times across eight parishes in WA's South West.

Bishop Ewing said he had not be able to discover "any kind of systematic moving him from one place to another but rather that this was the natural rhythm of life in the South West at the time."

Gross indecency conviction

Cheek pleaded guilty to gross indecency charges in 1971 over an incident involving a male nurse in Pingelly.

His licence was suspended for 12 months and he was ordered to receive treatment and advice from a doctor.

The ABC understands he was sent to a church rehabilitation program in South Australia after the case.

Cheek then moved to Ravensthorpe in 1975 where he sexually assaulted two boys who were staying at his home.

Mr Lowe went to the police in 2015 after he realised Cheek was still alive and facing child sex offence charges.

"That was after an interval of over 40 years, and had the church acted against him when my parents first raised it with Arrantash, a lot of this could have been avoided," he said.

"The Christian message seemed to me to make a great deal of sense and then suddenly the two people who are responsible for teaching it … one of them was a child molester, and the other one was trying to cover it up as far as I can see.

"Because the most shameful aspect of all this is if they knew he was a paedophile and they kept moving him around and didn't take action to prevent it."

Mr Lowe has since received a letter of apology from the Bunbury Diocese, which he said he had accepted, but he said he would never forgive Cheek.

internationalAllan Lowe (R) outside a church in Albany, the year before he was abused by Raymond Cheek.


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