The Anglican Church in Newcastle has imposed punishment on four priests for engaging in sexual trysts with a teenage male in the 1970s and 1980s. The New South Wales (NSW) police initially investigated the charges but filed no charges; however, the church held its own probe which led to the defrocking of the clergy.
Reports identified the four Anglican priests, three of whom were defrocked on Monday, as Graeme Lawrence, the former dean of Newcastle, Bruce Hoare, Andrew Duncan and Graeme Sturt. Mr Sturt was banned from performing any ministry function for five years.
The Anglican Diocese of Newcastle, in a statement released on Monday, confirmed that in an internal church inquiry, it found that Mr Duncan had oral sex with a 14-year old male teenager in 1979. Their sexual relationship continued for two years which included masturbation and anal sex.
When the same teenager was 16, he met Mr Lawrence in 1981 at the boy's home. Their sexual relationship lasted for four years while Mr Lawrence served as dean of Newcastle. Their trysts include regular orgies with an Anglican teacher identified as Gregory Goyette.
Mr Sturt was given a lesser penalty because he was alleged to watch the orgy among Messrs Goyette, Lawrence and the boy, although he did not participate.
Mr Goyette was also prohibited from holding any office with the church.
The current Anglican Bishop of Newcastle, Brian Farran, said the four priests denied the accusation and did not cooperate with the church inquiry.
After the church's Professional Standards Board (PSB) investigated, it found the four violated their pastoral responsibility, failed to report their misconduct and none showed any remorse.
Messrs Lawrence and Sturt even attempted to overturn the PSB recommendations in 2010 to defrock them but lost the case before the NSW Supreme Court in April.
"I realise that there will be people in Newcastle who will be extraordinarily angry with me. There will be other people of course who will be very supportive. But unfortunately, this has happened and the processes must be followed and people must realise that the church has to be a safe place." ABC quoted Mr Farran.
The complainant and his family are still practicing Anglicans with even one of his brothers a priest in the Anglican church. The archbishop said the accuser, tagged as "M" apologised for his behaviour.
"Speaking the truth is the right thing to do; it sets us free from the cruel pain associated with so many lies and deceptions," ABC quoted "M."
The NSW police resumed investigation of the Anglican clergy after it received new information.
A second case involving six Catholic priests is still being investigated by Strike Force Georgiana. Detectives are looking if there is any link between the two cases.
However, while the Anglican church took swift action on the complaint, the Catholic church in Newcastle said senior church officials covered up the action of the priests for two decades.
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