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Pedophile sex ring scandal rocks Anglican Church of Australia

Pedophile sex ring scandal rocks Anglican Church of Australia
Even a future Newcastle bishop was not immune to abuse

By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
www.virtueonline.org
July 26, 2016

On Epiphany Sunday, 2002, the Boston Globe shone its "Spotlight" on the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston and revealed that there was a protected system in place which allowed pedophile priests to remain within the Archdiocese as they were shuffled from one unsuspecting parish to another, and all the while the number of their sexually-abused victims mounted. Initially, 87 Catholic priests were identified as The Globe's "Spotlight" pointed its laser beam on them; eventually 249 members of the clergy were exposed, showing they failed in living out their vow of celibacy with more than one thousand vulnerable children.

But the Church of Rome is not the only ecclesial body to have a serious pedophile problem within its ranks. Crossing an ocean, the equator and denominational lines brings one down under to Australia and the Anglican Church of Australia, where the priests marry and are not bound to a celibacy rule, yet that church is embroiled in a pedophilia scandal which is sending shock waves across the Anglican world.

The latest revelation of the Anglican Church of Australia's sexual wrong doing comes from sitting Bishop Greg Thompson (XIII Newcastle). When the current Newcastle bishop was a teenager, during the mid-1970's, and showing interest in the Anglican priesthood, he was himself sexually molested by two Anglican clergy, one being his own bishop -- the Rt. Rev. Ian Shevill, then the IX Bishop of Newcastle (circa 1973-1977). Bishop Thompson is not very forth coming right now with details ... it's too personal ... too haunting. He said he will reveal all to the Royal Commission when asked for particulars.

Fed up with the dark secrets, deceptions and cover up by high ranking Anglican officials, Bishop Thompson became one of several whistleblowers to knock the lid off of a culture steeped in deceit, which has kept sexual misconduct secrets and fostered an atmosphere where several well-organized pedophile rings could be developed, grow and flourish. The various clandestine, interconnected pedophile networks reportedly included Catholic and Anglican priests -- including bishops -- politicians, physicians, attorneys, businessmen, community leaders and children's homes management, who interlaced with each other and remained silent to provide harrowing houses of horror spreading terror in the region including Wallsend and Hunter Valley. Before St. Alban's finally closed in 1986, it had operated in at least four locations in the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales (NSW).

In Australia, it is "7.30", a hard-hitting current affairs program on the Australian Broadcasting Company, which is now shining the spotlight on the Diocese of Newcastle-based Anglican pedophile ring and bringing it to the light of day. Last week in an exclusive report "7.30" interviewed Bishop Thompson and his two fellow whistle blowers: John Cleary, the Diocese of Newcastle business manager & the CEO of Newcastle Anglican Schools Corporation; and Michael Elliott, the director of Professional Standards for the diocese.

All three men are drawing fire for their public openness, their stance and their determination to root out evil, as well as revealing decades of lies and deceptions which allowed such a sandal to continue.

"My leadership is being criticized because I'm opening the cupboards and we're finding the skeletons," the bishop explained to "7.30" reporter Anne Connolly.

The skeletons which tumbled out of the closet include wide ranging sexual abuse at the hands of trusted priests at St. Alban's Boys' Home, an orphanage and abandoned boys' home in New South Wales, within the confines of the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle with links to St. John's Theological College and the Church of England Boys' Society.

St. Alban's was supposed to provide ''a caring environment for boys who had no place to live,'' instead it became a house of horrors for the boys in its care.

A Royal Commission is commissioned

Now the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has the Diocese of Newcastle on its radar scope and, next week, starting Aug. 2, it will commence a public hearing into the allegations of massive sexual misconduct.

The Royal Commission is like an American Grand Jury. It is a governmental body that can and does investigate crime. The Royal Commission into Child Sex Abuse was established in 2013 to investigate sexual child abuse. It is not only zeroing in on the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle, it is also looking into reported abuse in the Salvation Army, Scouts Australia, the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Newcastle YMCA, the Catholic Church, the Uniting Church of Australia, heath care facilities, sporting clubs, child care centers, youth training centers, Jewish schools or anywhere child abuse can happen in an institutional setting. Other Anglican institutions coming under scrutiny include: North Coast Children's Home (Diocese of Grafton); Hutchins School (Diocese of Tasmania); and Church of England Boys' Society (in the dioceses of Tasmania, Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane).

The Royal Commission has opened 44 case studies since 2012, including the case involving the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle, which is Case 42. The six-person Commission has the Parliamentary power to hold hearings, summon witnesses, and demand documents. Failure to comply with the Royal Commission's wishes can result in a $1,000 fine or six months in prison for breaking the Criminal Code.

In the Newcastle case, the Commission is zeroing in on several clerics and laymen including: now defrocked Anglican priests Andrew Duncan, Bruce Hoare, and Graeme Lawrence; inhibited Anglican priest Graeme Sturt; deceased Anglican priest, Peter Rushton; former Anglican seminarian Ian Barrack, disgraced former music teacher, Gregory Goyette, jailed lay youth worker, James Michael Brown, and another unnamed Anglican priest. The main focus of the Commission's probe is reportedly the late Peter Rushton, who was the Archdeacon of Maitland and a known predatory pedophile priest, who sexually offended children for more than four decades going back to the 1960's.

The future Anglican priest went to St. John's Theological College at Morpeth for his seminary training. That is where he first made his connections with the school that he would keep throughout his life. He was priested in 1963 and spent four years at Cessnock, then he went to Wyong for one year before moving on to Weston in 1968. In 1973, he moved to Wallsend and on to Maitland in 1983 and finally, Hamilton in 1998. He retired in 2001, before dying in 2007.

In 2010, three years after his death, Fr. Ruston was identified as the linchpin in the pedophile ring. He is the one who arranged for boys to be passed around and sexually abused by others; he coordinated activities, he destroyed evidence of inappropriate sexual activity, and he protected the abusers. However, he was well liked by his parishioners, who knew nothing about his pedophilia life, so he never was caught or convicted; although rumors swirled during his lifetime, nothing concrete surfaced.

The Newcastle Herald explains: "The [upcoming] public hearing comes after a tumultuous six years in which the Diocese named former Bishop Ian Shevill and the late senior priests, Peter Rushton and Michael Cooper, as sexual abusers, and the Royal Commission, in 2013, exposed the diocese's failure to protect children from child sex offender priests Allan Kitchingman and Campbell Brown."

If Fr. Ruston was never caught nor convicted, James Michael Brown was. Veteran Newcastle Police Officer Greg Harding worked long and hard to get Brown convicted. He eventually succeeded. In 2012, Brown was sentenced to 10 years for 103 child offense sex crimes with 20 boys aged 11 to 17. He would have been eligible for parole in 2017. However, in attempting to appeal his sentence, the court chose instead to double it. Now he is serving 20 years and is not eligible for parole until 2023.

Through the years there are other Newcastle priests who have seen the inside of a jail cell, including: Eric William Griffith, Neil Barrick, Allan Kitchingman and Robert Ellmore. Stephen Hatley Gray was given a good behavior bond -- the New South Wales version of probation -- for his sexual abuse of a juvenile.

Anglicans worse than Catholics

The Diocesan Director of Standard Michael Elliot told "7.30" that he felt that Anglican abusers were worse than the Catholics abusers because the Anglicans cooperated with each other to perpetuate continued abuse.

"My experience in the Anglican Diocese is that the abusers tended to be better organized, more cooperative ... it was a larger scale of child abuse and they cooperated together," he explained. "If you want to call it a 'pedophile ring' ... certainly there were groups of child sex abusers that were working together to facilitate their abuse of children, without a doubt."

One of Fr. Rushton's early victims was his own godson, Paul Gray, who at the time was a 10-year-old acolyte and living with his family. Young Gray was neither an orphan nor an abandoned child and did not reside at St. Alban's.

Now an adult, Gray remembers Fr. Rushton bringing him to St. Alban's and leaving him there to be abused by others.

"The worst part with all the abuse that Father Peter (Rushton) did with me was he actually took me to the boys' home (St. Alban's) in Aberdare, which was only a little way from where I lived, and he left me there with three men," Gray recalled. "And I remember calling out to him to not leave me there, and he did. And I was taken there many, many times."

Gray wasn't the only boy molested at the Anglican boy's home. Ruston and his reportedly gay lover, James Michael Brown, also preyed on boys at Church of England Boys' Society campouts.

"The [Boys' Society] camps were infiltrated by a pedophile network in Newcastle, and at the heart of it, Anglican priest Fr. Peter Rushton, "Anne Connolly reports for "7.30" as she uncovered the shocking details of the story.

Gray also remembers being stalked by five men at one Boys' Society camping trip.

"[You] run to try and get away," Gray explained. "[there's] people abusing you, that haunts your mind for the rest of your life ..."

The Commission is interested in determining the degree of cooperation between the various groups and how the institutional culture at St. John's Theological College at Morpeth played into the perpetration of child sexual abuse at St. Alban's and other organizations catering to children in the Diocese of Newcastle.

Pedophile breeding ground

St. John's in Morpeth in New South Wales has been considered the breeding ground for predatory pedophiles. The exclusive "7.30" research shows that at least one-quarter of convicted Australian Anglican pedophile priests graduated from St. John's Theological College. The Anglican seminary was originally founded in 1898, in the Anglican Diocese of Armidale. It moved to Diocese of Newcastle twenty years later when it was relocated on diocesan property in Morpeth, adjacent to what would become St. Alban's Boy's Home. In 1920, following the close of the Great War (WWI), the Bishop of Newcastle's residence was remodeled and turned into St. Alban's. Through the years, the theological college developed "a sinister reputation for sexual abuse", particularly with the boy's home next door.

"People being recruited to Morpeth were not appropriate candidates and many of them were involved in abuse." Michael Elliot explained how the seminary became top heavy in unsuitable candidates. Before the theological college closed its doors, the school's chapel was noted for its fine 1912 Norman & Beard pipe organ.

Fr. Rushton was deeply involved in how the Anglican training ground for priests was run. He was on several boards and committees and at various times he was highly influential in the dynamics and the very management of the seminary. In addition, as the Archdeacon for the Diocese of Newcastle, he was instrumental in deciding who would be ordained, he was involved in the nominating process for bishops, and even had a direct hand in what happened to sex abuse complaints that came across his desk. He chucked them out.

A separate police strike force has already been hard at work trying to uncover the truth behind the long whispered rumors, but they have met with little success when needed records and documents from St. Alban's seemed to have disappeared.

Now retired Newcastle Police Officer, Greg Harding, who has been dogging the case for years, says it's possible that records could have been destroyed and that raised red flags in his mind.

"I found it very unusual that in any day and age there were no records pertaining to a boys' home with how it operated, who went there, and the details of what occurred there. No minutes, no nothing," he told ABC Newcastle News. "We certainly looked for documents in relation to it, but in all my searches nothing turned up regarding who went through and actually who managed the homes or who had control of the boys."

David Shoebridge, a member of the NSW Parliament, is also actively questioning the lack of documentation.

"To find that all the records at St. Alban's have fallen literally into a black hole, then you have to ask yourself, what are the circumstances in which those documents were lost or destroyed," he said.

However, the Diocese disagrees, and says that records to St. Alban's and its other diocesan children's homes are being held at the University of Newcastle for safe keeping. Records entitled "Diocese of Newcastle Children's Homes" are in the University's archives and, apparently, they are controlled by the Samaritan Foundation.

Officer Harding said he was surprised to hear that any St. Alban's records existed, because he even used the power of search warrants seeking them, and was not able to unearth anything. He questions why the Diocese did not tell him about the records and that they were kept off site for safe keeping at the University of Newcastle.

Now that St. Alban's records and documents have been "found", they will play an important part in the Royal Commission's search for the truth.

University records show the timeline and history of St. Alban's which was originally opened in 1920, in Morpeth, and ran by the Sisters of the Community of the Holy Name. Then, 15 years later, the Church Army took over and ran it until 1948, during which time it was moved to Murrurundi. The Diocese Newcastle took over the full operation of the school and again moved it to Mayfield in 1952, finally relocating it in 1964 to Aberdare. St. Alban's Home for Boys closed in 1980 and was reopened as St. Alban's Family Group Home. St. Alban's, under any name, ceased operation in 1986.

The various boys' home locations have since become private golden age retirement villages or assisted living facilities.

The University of Newcastle online records show that at one time or another from 1918-1987, the Diocese of Newcastle had operated various children's homes, including: St. Elizabeth's Girls Home; St. George's Training Farm Home for Boys; the various St. Alban's Boys' Homes; St. Christopher's Home for Little Children; St. Hilda's Hostel for Girls; Dwyer Boys' Home and the Bishop Murray Memorial Home.

Newborn foundlings and young orphans started out at St. Christopher's Home for Little Children. At age seven, the girls were sent to St. Elizabeth's Girl's Home and the boys were transferred to St. Alban's, where they stayed for five years. For a short period of time, from 1927-1930, boys older than 12 were moved to St. George's Training Farm Home for Boys to learn a trade.

Bishops deaf and mute

But it's more than just missing records. There was an active attempt to cover up the on-going sexual abuse by the Diocese's top leaders.

When the "7.30" reporter point blankly asked: "Do you think that a number of the bishops during that period of time knew about complaints about him [Fr. Rushton]?" The Director of Standard Michael Elliot point blank answered: "Absolutely. There's evidence that there was an awareness of Rushton's offending. It had been brought to the attention of various bishops on a number of occasions."

The bishops of that period of time include: Bishop Ian Sheville (IX Newcastle 1973-1977); Alfred Holland (X Newcastle 1977-1992); Roger Herft (XI Newcastle 1993-2005); and Brain Farran 2005-2012). Bishop Sheville was a part of the problem; he was an offender himself. The subject of the conversation, Fr. Rushton, died in 2007.

The exclusive "7.30" report reveals: "Bishop Alfred Holland was in charge during most of Peter Rushton's time. In the '80s, five people, including clergy, told him that Rushton had sexually abused the five-year-old son of a priest. "7.30" has been told that Bishop Holland refused to believe them, demanding photographic evidence."

The television news exclusive continues: "It's understood Bishop Herft received at least four complaints about Rushton. In 1998, removalists found hundreds of pornographic videos and magazines at the church rectory where he lived. Some of the material found at his home reportedly included child pornography. When confronted by Bishop Herft, Rushton threatened legal action. Four years later, a local priest told Bishop Herft that Rushton had abused a boy."

In 2014, a former church employee also told The Newcastle Herald: ''I told them in 1984 that 'You've got a network of these bastards preying on altar boys', and I named names.''

That cry, and all other cries, fell on deaf ears. The bishops turned blind eyes and deaf ears to the problem.

Archbishop Robert Herft, now the VII Archbishop of Perth, explains what he knew: "This information that had been shared left me in an unenviable position. Father Peter had my license (to be a priest) and if he reoffended I would be held liable, as I now had prior knowledge of his alleged behavior."

The Archbishop said it would be inappropriate to comment any further ahead of the Royal Commission's hearing, where he will be asked to reveal what he knows.

Apologies come

When the whole thing landed in Bishop Farren's lap, he was the one who started to take steps after continued sexual abuse allegations surfaced. In 2012, he inhibited Graeme Sturt and deposed Andrew Duncan, Bruce Hoare, and Graeme Lawrence. He also banned music teacher, Gregory Goyette, from ever holding another position in the church.

Bishop Farren was the first to apologize, in 2010, on behalf of the Diocese for the unchecked abuse that went on for so long.

When Bishop Thompson came on board in 2013, he also apologized for past church cover-ups and the poor handling of complaints about child sexual abuse. He also noted that "more than $4 million [US$3 million; £2.3 million; €2.7 million] had already been paid to abuse survivors in the Hunter region, but no amount of money could compensate them for their pain. Money is a way of getting through things but it is not the healing."

The Bishop, who is dealing with his own abuse by a bishop, is now trying to assure fellow survivors, that the Diocese is now ready to listen to and truly hear their stories.

Bishop Thompson is steeling himself for the Royal Commissions findings.

"There's no accommodation any more for criminal behavior," he said. "So we are preparing our house, we're preparing for the harsh realities of the failures of care for children and vulnerable people in the past."

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

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