NEWCASTLE Anglican Bishop Brian Farran could seek an apprehended violence order after a defrocked priest alleged that some disgruntled parishioners wished to ‘‘damage you permanently with their own hands’’.
The bishop sought legal advice, and police were consulted after former Terrigal priest John Gumbley wrote to the bishop on December 6 alleging that ‘‘some have declared they wished to hurt you physically’’.
Mr Gumbley alleged some people felt ‘‘fury’’ at decisions taken by the bishop, including defrocking Mr Gumbley in 2010 due to his relationship with a woman parishioner who worked for the diocese.
In a letter from his lawyer, Bishop Farran said the references to ‘‘potential violence’’ were ‘‘highly disturbing’’.
‘‘These references, combined with your numerous references to your desire to continue this matter indefinitely, lead us to believe that you are attempting to harass and intimidate the bishop,’’ solicitor Micah Jenkins said.
‘‘We note that further conduct of this nature will necessitate the bishop applying to the local court for an apprehended personal violence order.’’
Mr Gumbley sought a review of his defrocking and an apology from Bishop Farran before he retires as head of the diocese tomorrow.
Defrocking him was a ‘‘draconian penalty that was not warranted’’, Mr Gumbley said.
‘‘You should be aware that sex between consenting single adults is not an offence in today’s world.’’
He alleged the diocese had been inconsistent in its handling of complaints involving priests, and called on the diocese to investigate an alleged ‘‘adulterous relationship’’ between a named priest and a woman parishioner.
In the letter,Bishop Farran advised Mr Gumbley that a review of his defrocking had been commissioned in 2010.
Professor Patrick Parkinson, of Sydney University law faculty, concluded that the diocese’s investigation of the priest had been ‘‘in all essential respect proper, and indeed thorough’’.
Material considered by the diocese’s professional standards board ‘‘gave a clear indication of behaviour that ought to lead to complete removal from pastoral ministry and from holy orders’’, Professor Parkinson found.
Mr Gumbley said yesterday: ‘‘I do regret having said [that people allegedly wished to hurt the bishop] in my letter, if the bishop feels threatened by it.’’
According to a diocese spokesman, professional standards director Michael Elliott is investigating a complaint of an alleged ‘‘adulterous relationship’’ involving a priest.