People who reported allegations of child sexual abuse in the Newcastle Anglican diocese over three decades were often treated with contempt and their complaints were dismissed, a report has confirmed.
The failure was among seven systemic issues identified in a case study about the diocese's handling of child abuse matters compiled by the Royal Commission into the Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
The 408 page document found allegations of child sexual abuse and related offences were not consistently or regularly reported to the police.
In addition to inadequate record keeping about complaints, there was a general lack of awareness of policies on avoiding conflicts of interest in responding to child abuse matters.
The case study also highlighted problems resulting from a lack of turnover of those in positions of governance resulting in 'conflicts of interest and a narrowed pool of expertise.'
This was compounded by "permissive and timid" leadership by successive bishops.
"There was an over-reliance on the perceived honesty of alleged perpetrators when confronted with allegations," the case study said.
Like other religious institutions, it found the diocese's handling of child abuse allegations had improved since the mid-2000s.
"Bishop Holland and Bishop Herft showed a distinct lack of leadership, and alleged perpetrators were not called to account," the report said.
"Compassion and pastoral care was often not shown to survivors
"On the other hand, later bishops, Bishop Farran and Bishop Thompson, met the challenge head-on by exposing the allegations, taking appropriate responses against alleged perpetrators and providing survivors with pastoral care.
"They faced a considerable backlash for so doing."
Anglican church whistleblowerJohn Cleary said he was delighted the un-redacted version of Case Study 42 had finally been released.
Mr Cleary settled a legal case against the diocese in 2017 after alleging he had been "marginalised, bullied and ostracised" by senior church officials for his stand on behalf of victims of abuse and attempts at reform.
"It is great for survivors to get closure on this as indeed it is for me," he said.
Bishop Peter Stuart, who was ordained Bishop of Newcastle in 2018, had been among those calling for the release the un-redacted version of the case study.
"On every occasion, especially where the conduct of the diocese is in the public domain, I want to reiterate, on behalf of the people of the diocese, our profound regret at our significant and systemic failures and the huge impact those failures had on so many lives," he said on Tuesday.
The case study also examined whether the culture of St John's Theological College at Morpeth had contributed to offending by its former students.
It followed accounts from several witnesses who said that, since at least the 1970s, the college was the subject of rumours concerning sexualised behaviour its students.
Despite that, the commissioners failed to find a link between the college's culture and offending.
"Ultimately, however, there is insufficient evidence before us to conclude that the culture at Morpeth College, including its Anglo-Catholic persuasion or the fact that some students engaged in homosexual activity, was linked to the number of child sex offenders or alleged offenders who studied at Morpeth College," the case study says.
"As part of our Institutional review of Anglican Church institutions case study, the Royal Commission has received further evidence about the incidence of child sexual offending on the part of those who studied at Morpeth College. We anticipate that this issue will be dealt with in more detail in the Royal Commission's final report."
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