Victorian Enquiry Anglican Church Submission (Or: We’re Trying Really, Really Hard)

The Anglican Church, through the Melbourne Diocese, has presented a submission to the Victorian Parliamentary enquiry. Unlike the Catholic Church, it adopts a conciliatory tone, in principle if not necessarily in practice. The introductory statement reads:-

“The Church welcomes the Inquiry and its intent (as defined by the Terms of Reference). The Church takes its responsibilities in the community very seriously and regards the issues that are the subject of the inquiry as being of great importance. It is our belief that as a general principle, a religious organisation should have in place a complaints resolution process that is transparent, independent and commands respect and integrity.”

The Anglican Church operates its response through a “Professional Standards Board”. The Chair of the Professional Standards Committee is Daryl Williams SC. The President of the Professional Standards Board is Stephen Willmot (LLB) and the President of the Professional Standards Review Board is Hon. Justice Julie Dodds-Streeton.

It defines child abuse under the following headings:-

a) emotional abuse

b) neglect

c) physical abuse

d) sexual abuse

e) spiritual abuse.

The inclusion of spiritual abuse is a good sign of understanding.

Unlike the Catholic Church, the Diocese determined that Police Checks and WWC Checks would be required for: Candidates for Ordination; Licensed Clergy; Authorized lay Ministers and Lay Readers; Stipendiary Authorized Lay Ministers, All with Permission to Officiate authorities; Any others who work with children in either an employed or voluntary capacity.

The Anglican Church claims it requires the keeping of records of “people affected by allegations of abuse.” Presumably, these records will be available to the Victorian enquiry and eventually to the Royal Commission for checking.

The National Church commissioned a study of Reported Child Sexual Abuse in the Anglican Church of Australia (the CSA Study). This independent study conducted by Emeritus Professor Kim Oates AM and Professor Patrick Parkinson AM was published in June 2009. The full report and findings are appended as Attachment E to their submission.

The Anglican Church claims to support mandatory reporting. It states that “The Director must notify the Police if the conduct disclosed may constitute an offence whether committed in or outside Victoria that is an indictable offence against a law of the Commonwealth or any jurisdiction in Australia punishable by imprisonment for not less than five years (whether or not the offence is or may be dealt with summarily).” The proviso of 5 years is a bit troubling. It is also troubling that the word “may” is used in the following context:- The Director may notify the Police if the conduct disclosed may constitute any other criminal offence.

The submission is very verbose, especially concerning how importantly the church regards the issue of child sexual abuse. There has already been one case that suggests that much of it constitutes rhetoric rather than real concerns.

Former Anglican priest Paul Walliker told the Victorian inquiry church members who reported cases of child abuse were publicly shamed and given no support from the church. Fr Walliker said he was refused communion in the 1990s after blowing the whistle on a parish priest who was involved with a student in regional Victoria. “The support we received from the diocese was zip, zero, zilch,” Fr Walliker said. He said his children were harassed at church, in their workplace and while walking to school by supporters of the offending priest, and he was forced to live in secrecy. He had also, he said, received death threats.

In 2003 the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s 7:30 Report claimed Mr. Sapsford, who was a parish rector in Seymour from 1966 to 1996 and archdeacon of the diocese of Wangaratta, had sexually abused over 30 boys and a number of women while serving at the parish. Fr. Walliker said he had helped five women press charges against the Rev. Alan Sapsford, however the abuse claims were not believed by many members of the congregation. After one of his victims, who later became an Anglican priest informed the church of the abuse, Mr. Sapsford confessed his guilt in a letter to Bishop Paul Richardson of the Diocese of Wangaratta.

Fr Walliker said Bishop Richardson withdrew Mr. Sapsford’s licence and allowed him to retire due to ill-health. Archbishop Keith Rayner subsequently gave him a limited licence to officiate in Melbourne. In September 2002, Mr. Sapsford was arrested and charged with child abuse. He died in March 2003 before his case went to trial.

The Royal Commission will need to revisit this matter in detail because much of the Anglican Church’s credibility hinges on its veracity or otherwise.

Read more here:

TOMORROW: Finally, another statement from the Royal Commission

That’s all I can say

Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)

 

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