Anglican Bishop of Bunbury Allan Ewing says the extent of child sexual abuse is shameful
By Kate Campbell
February 18, 2017
|Bishop of Bunbury Allan Ewing|
A WA Anglican Bishop believes it will take a generation before trust in the church is restored in the wake of the child sex abuse scandal.
And it’s unlikely the community will ever view the clergy in the same way again, Anglican Bishop of Bunbury Allan Ewing concedes.
“In some ways that’s a good thing. If there was ever a way in which the wider community’s regard for the clergy allowed those who had evil intent to prey upon the innocent ... then I’m really pleased that’s no longer the case,” he said.
The extent of alleged child sexual abuse within the Anglican Church will be exposed at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse next month.
Shocking revelations have emerged in the commission that nearly one in 10 Catholic priests in WA was accused of sexually abusing children, while three of the four national institutions that had the most complaints were in WA.
Bishop Ewing said when the Anglican report was finally revealed at the commission he expected “people will be appalled, and rightly so”.
“For one child to be abused is one too much ... as a leader in the church I am ashamed,” he said. He admitted to feeling angry and betrayed, describing it as a “deep pain”, saying every Anglican “carries that same burden of shame and responsibility”.
“We are very sincere in our apology ... I think we have understandably and rightly lost the trust of a wide section of the community,” he said.
“I think that this is a generation’s work, this is not something that we can just blink and say, ‘Thank goodness that’s over’.
“When you destroy relationships and trust you can’t just come back the next day and say, ‘I’m different, trust me, I’ll never hurt you again’.”
Bishop Ewing said he was aware of a few reports of clergy being involved in extramarital affairs and two child abuse complaints in his diocese. One of those was former Anglican priest Raymond Sydney Cheek, 85, sentenced this month to two years in jail for sexually abusing five boys in Albany, Williams, Perth and Ravensthorpe between 1955 and 1985.
The bishop is writing to the courts, the Attorney-General and the Director of Public Prosecutions to express disappointment at the apparent leniency of Cheek’s sentence after the judge had to use the penalties that applied at the time of the crimes.
“We would want to challenge whether it’s entirely right to be bound by the penalties of the past ... I think the wider community expects current levels of penalty,” he said.
Bishop Ewing, who has been the Anglican leader in Bunbury since 2010, said many people were as disillusioned with the church for trying to avoid responsibility in the past as they were sickened by the crimes.
He was well aware many survivors had not yet spoken up and urged them to do so.
Bishop Ewing said clergy and lay people working or volunteering for the church had to have police checks, references and safe church training, with child protection policies including no adult being alone with a child.