Former Newcastle Anglican Dean Graeme Lawrence and Cardiff priest Graeme Sturt suffered distress after "unseemly" sexual allegations against them at a professional standards hearing, but lost a NSW Supreme Court case to have findings against them quashed.
Justice John Sackar today found a professional standards board, headed by a retired NSW magistrate, had not acted with bias when it stripped the priests of their holy orders in December 2010 after public hearings of lurid sexual allegations against them.
The judge found the public airing of group sex allegations involving priests were, "if true or untrue", distressing for Fathers Lawrence and Sturt and had "no doubt been distressing and potentially damaging to others".
"There also is no doubt that these events have arguably impacted upon the reputation of the Anglican Church of Australia."
Justice Sackar criticised the priests' decision not to take part in the hearings.
The judge also confirmed the diocese's professional standards board was not a statutory tribunal and it was unclear if the Supreme Court had jurisdiction to grant a permanent stay on the church further examining the allegations, as sought by the priests.
Father Lawrence said he would comment about the decision after he had read the 135-page judgement.
In a statement, the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle, The Right Rev’d Dr Brian Farran, said the ruling was a welcome result.
He said it vindicated the actions of the Professional Standards Board.
“The Professional Standards Board must take all allegations of sexual abuse seriously; this is in line with public expectations,” Bishop Farran said.
“I hope all those directly or indirectly concerned with the litigation remain calm and prayerfully consider the effect of the judgment on the Diocese, the clergy concerned and others.’’
For full report, see tomorrow's Newcastle Herald.