Archbishop Roger Herft has returned to the witness stand for a second round of testimony before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse
The Archbishop of Perth, the Most Rev. Roger Herft, (pictured) has returned to the witness stand for a second round of testimony before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse meeting in Newcastle. Archbishop Herft, who served as Bishop of Newcastle from 1993 to 2005 has been accused of ignoring reports of child abuse amongst the clergy in his diocese and covering up or acquiescing to the falsification of reports on abuse. Witnesses have testified that they informed Archbishop Herft of abuse committed by the Newcastle cathedral dean, a now deceased archdeacon, and other clergy, and that a paedophile ring was active in the diocese. Documents have also been submitted into evidence showing the metropolitan of New South Wales, Archbishop Harry Goodhew of Sydney, had been contacted about abuse in Newcastle and had forwarded the complaints to Archbishop Herft for action — however, Archbishop Herft stated he does not recall receiving some of the warnings. Asked on 29 Aug 2016 why he did not act upon allegations he recalled receiving, the archbishop told the commission “In hindsight there are a lot of things I could’ve done, including speaking to [the abuser archdeacon] Peter Ruston about these matters.” Asked why he did not report the allegations to the police, as required by civil law and church policy, Archbishop Herft said he had been tricked by Rushton into believing the archdeacon had reformed. “I was deeply fooled into believing that this person had suffered” he told the commission. “There was compassion. I seriously believed he had changed, (but) that does not preclude the need for me to look seriously at his past record and deal with it.” In hindsight he would have acted differently. “I have asked myself a number of times: why was I not more alert? Why weren’t the people around me more alert? Why weren’t the other archdeacons outside of the particular group that we have spoken about more alert? … I struggle to find an answer for that. But I agree with you,” he told the attorney for the commission, “that, at that particular point of time, I should have acted more effectively and well and I did not.” Asked if he would resign by an attorney representing the victims of the clergy abuser as Archbishop of Perth in light of his comments, Archbishop Herft was excused from answering the question by the commission chairman. The hearings are expected to continue through the week, and then move next month to an investigation of clergy sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Diocese of Newcastle-Maitland.