THE Anglican Church had mishandled sexual abuse cases and not acted in the best interest of victims, Bishop of Newcastle Roger Herft said yesterday.
Bishop Herft told the Newcastle Anglican diocese’s 47th synod that the portrayal of women in the Bible as “conspirers”, coupled with a misunderstanding of forgiveness, had contributed to the problem.
Bishop Herft said the opinion that women were “enticers” had led to the portrayal of man as “the passive recipient of the woman’s guile”.
“We have reaped the consequences of such a warped attitude for it portrays the victim of abuse as the cause, rather than the bearer of pain,” he said.
He said a “misunderstanding of forgiveness” had led to abusive priests or church workers being allowed to resume ministry responsibilities.
“The sad and tragic focus on the former Governor-General, Dr Peter Hollingworth, which resulted in his resignation, revealed these two world views that have governed the culture of most churches,” Bishop Herft said.
Parish priests, chaplains and lay representatives from across the Newcastle diocese, which covers Newcastle, the Central Coast, the Upper Hunter and Manning regions, have come together for the synod. It is the annual meeting of the diocese, at which policy is determined and issues debated.
Bishop Herft said the protection of the victim was critical and covering up “was not an option”.
He said the diocese had adopted more stringent checking procedures for those who wanted a bishop’s licence, including a criminal record check.
Legislation establishing protocols for dealing with all forms of misconduct had been prepared.
The synod, which began on Thursday night, will finish this afternoon with a Eucharist at Christ Church Cathedral, at which the head of the Anglican Church in Australia, Archbishop Peter Carnley, will deliver a sermon.
Dr Carnley led the members of Synod in Bible study yesterday morning.
CONCERN: Bishop Roger Herft addresses the annual Newcastle Anglican diocese’s synod. – Picture by Darren Pateman