ACT News

Bishop Stuart Robinson working to expose abuse by clergy

Canberra's Anglican bishop is investigating "disgraceful and inappropriate" behaviour by clergy and church workers in the diocese.

"There are matters with which I am currently dealing that do involve instances of abuse [in the Canberra-Goulburn diocese]," Bishop Stuart Robinson said on Wednesday. "They do involve disgraceful and inappropriate actions by leaders within the churches. And, yes, lives have been destroyed."

Bishop Robinson was explaining the decision to hold a diocese-wide "Lamentation Sunday" this weekend to address the issue of child sex abuse.

"The Lamentation Sunday and apology is not predicated on anything other than the pain we are feeling as a result of the pain we have inflicted either directly or indirectly [on the victims of child sexual abuse] over the past 30 or 40 years,” he said.

"People responding to media reports and the royal commission tell us that these things are affecting them, even up to 50 years later, and they want to deal with them."

Bishop Robinson, who moved the issue into the public domain with a strongly worded charge to the Diocesan Synod in September last year, said the church could not look the other way.

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"We haven't always got it [the handling of allegations of sexual abuse] right," he said. "To be true to ourselves as Christians, and to our beliefs, we have to recognise what has occurred and to address that."

He expects an increase in the number of reported incidents as a result of the Lamentation Sunday apology.

"An apology, the Lamentation Sunday, can be a catalyst," he said. "It is the next step on a journey we must make [as a diocese].

"Now we have begun this journey, now we have asked people who have suffered to come forward and make that known, the number of cases will likely grow. This Sunday and the apology is about reaching out … and saying 'this is a defining moment [for us]'."

Asked if there was "something in the woodwork" that was likely to be exposed, Bishop Robinson said he did not know.

"I never know what is in the woodwork, I never know what is going to come out," he said. "I was speaking to a person yesterday who has lost all faith in any form of authority per se, not just within the church.

"The ripple effect [of the initial harm] can be very sad. Tragically they now find it very hard to interact effectively with society as a result. The very place that was meant to grow them as a person [their church] depleted them.”

Bishop Robinson would not go into detail on specific cases or incidents.

"I can say that while there aren't a large number [of cases in the diocese] at the moment, these are all complex matters and take time to deal with," he said.

"We do have a professional standards team and they are working within all of the reporting and other protocols. They work closely with the police when that is required."

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