Mere Anglicanism

Perth archbishop steps down over abuse cover up allegations

Archbishop Roger Herft had been accused of ignoring reports of child abuse amongst the clergy and covering up or acquiescing to the falsification of reports on abuse.

The Archbishop of Perth has resigned in the wake of his testimony before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse meeting in Newcastle. The Most Rev. Roger Herft, who served as Bishop of Newcastle from 1993 to 2005, had 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. In hearings held by the Commission in August, witnesses 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. In his testimony Archbishop Herft stated he did not recall receiving some of these warnings, and apologized for those actions he did take. On 29 Aug 2016 he 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.” The archbishop went on a leave of absence following the hearings, and upon his return to work on 10 Oct 2016 released a statement on the Perth Diocesan website stating: “I have decided to voluntarily stand aside from my role, function and duties as Archbishop of Perth and Metropolitan of Western Australia with immediate effect. This will include all duties including ordinations, pastoral visits, public functions, Synod, Diocesan Council, correspondence and other related engagements.” He did not address the questions raised by the Commission, however, writing: “I have taken this decision after much prayer, thought and consultation with my advisors to allow for the mission and ministry of the Diocese of Perth to flourish. I believe this is the appropriate decision while I focus my attention on the Royal Commission’s ongoing inquiry into the Diocese of Newcastle.”

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