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Bishop says church morality compromised

AAP logoAAP 17/11/2016 By Rebekah Ison

A former Newcastle bishop says the Anglican Church's morality has been compromised by child sex scandals and it should play no part in decisions to defrock priests.

Bishop Brian Farran on Thursday testified that he thought the church's professional standards process was too "in-house"'' and that decisions would be better made by an independent statutory body.

"I think really the morality of the church has been compromised," he told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

"There has to be absolute transparency and it needs to move out ... of the church and into a body like that."

Bishop Farran has told the royal commission he felt that a group of influential parishioners were out to get him during the professional standards process that led to the defrocking of influential priest Graeme Lawrence in 2012.

He said bishops, especially in smaller dioceses, faced a real conflict of interest risk under the current process.

Commissioner Justice Peter McClellan said Bishop Farran's suggestion of state government-established bodies could raise issues regarding the separation of powers.

But the bishop doubted the church would be able to create its own national body.

"The Anglican Church of Australia has a very poor record of doing things together nationally," he said.

"I don't think it's possible."

The royal commission has heard Bishop Farran initially decided to permanently inhibit rather than defrock Lawrence, who had been accused of child sex abuse.

It heard there were rumours among clergy that Bishop Farran and Lawrence had at some point had a homosexual relationship.

The bishop denied the allegation on Thursday.

The royal commission has heard Bishop Farran knew Lawrence from the St John's Theological College at Morpeth, where it's thought 14 alleged perpetrators trained.

A draft report considered by a meeting of bishops in 2009 called the college's numbers a "significant over-representation" and a "disturbing statistic".

Bishop Farran said he referred the report to the professional standards director but did not take up the invitation to take the issue further.

He described a meeting with an alleged victim of another St John's-trained priest known as CKC, who was sexually abused over four years, as traumatic.

He said he had to leave the room at one point and issued a public apology to the man, known as CKA.

"I felt contaminated that I was a bishop and this ... man and his family had been treated in such a terrible way," Bishop Farran said.

"I just felt he'd been so wronged."

The hearings into the Newcastle Anglican Diocese continues.

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