Bishop of Newcastle deals decisively with disgraced clergy

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From the ABC,

Newcastle’s Anglican Bishop Brian Farran has defrocked three priests over child sex allegations, including a member of the upper echelons of the church.

Bishop Farran has acted on an Anglican Professional Standards Board recommendation to defrock the highly-revered former Dean of Newcastle Graeme Lawrence, along with Reverends Bruce Hoare and Andrew Duncan.

The board found there was misconduct in relation to several sexual allegations.

Bishop Farran announced the defrockings to the ABC.

“There will be people in Newcastle who will be extraordinarily angry with me but unfortunately the processes must be followed,” he said.

Bishop Farran fought back tears as he explained his decision.

“The Professional Standards Board considered some very disturbing material and determined that some of the respondents engaged in sexual misconduct including misconduct when the complainant was a child,” he said.

The whole affair has been horrible, not least because of the nature of the charges but all the more so since the accused fought the process all the way, claiming that they had been unfairly discriminated against. The Newcastle Herald explains,

The decisions follow months of deliberation by the bishop, and a meeting in a regional NSW town on Friday to tell an alleged victim he would take the defrocking action.

It comes after a NSW Supreme Court judge rejected Reverend Lawrence’s case that he suffered ‘‘extreme’’ prejudice when lurid accounts of group sex with a 19-year-old were presented to the professional standards board in late 2010.

The board found the alleged victim, known as Mr M, was a ‘‘witness of truth’’ in his evidence to a board hearing about an alleged incident at a Narrandera motel during a 1984 Anglican seminar.

Reverend Lawrence, the other priests and lay teacher denied the allegations. The matter was referred to police who investigated, but did not take action.

The diocese dealt with the matter at controversial professional standards board hearings in 2010 that found there had been breaches of pastoral care.

In its findings the board said Reverend Lawrence’s denial of the sexual misconduct allegations meant the board was ‘‘not entitled to extend any leniency’’ in its recommendation to Bishop Farran about stripping the former dean of Holy Orders.

‘‘We are aware of the damage to families that occurs when conduct of this type is unchecked,’’ board president and former NSW magistrate Colin Elliott said.

Mr M alleged Reverend Lawrence ‘‘came looking for me’’.

A nasty nasty thing to do. May this day bring him to repentance and the joy of confession and absolution (2Cor. 7:8-9). There’s more yet to come for Lawrence – a prosecution and an enormous legal bill,

Insurers for the diocese sent a legal bill of $750,000 to Reverend Lawrence and another priest in August after the failed Supreme Court challenge, in addition to their $250,000 defence bill.

All very sad but only the just consequences of their own behaviour. Well done to Bishop Farran who has had an immensely difficult time over this.

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