The former registrar of a NSW Anglican diocese has quit the clergy because he thinks some church members are re-writing history.
After 50 years in the church, an Anglican priest says he doesn’t know if he can say he’s a Christian.
The priest, who was central to handling a group claim from people who suffered abuse in a NSW Anglican children’s home, has announced he is quitting the clergy.
In a surprise revelation at Monday’s hearing into how the Anglican Church dealt with victims of abuse at a children’s home in Lismore, the former registrar of the Grafton Diocese, Pat Comben, said he had relinquished holy orders.
Mr Comben was the first to hear of the allegations of abuse at the home and was central to the diocese’s handling of them for three years.
He said he’d signed the papers to leave the ministry on Friday, before taking the stand at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
The commission is looking at how the diocese handled claims of abuse at the North Coast Children’s Home in Lismore.
Mr Comben, who was once a member of the Queensland government, said he was quitting because some members of the church were trying to re-write history.
“Some of us have some guilt and take some responsibility for this,” Mr Comben told reporters outside the commission in Sydney after completing two days of evidence.
“Fifty years in the church and I do not know if I can even say I am a Christian,” he said.
Mr Comben had been central to the hard line the diocese took in dealing with requests for an apology and compensation from 42 people who had suffered beatings and rape in the Lismore home from the 1940s to 1984.
The commission heard that as the number of claimants increased, the diocese disputed liability, pleaded poverty and cast doubt on the veracity of some of the claims.
When questioned on Monday by counsel assisting the commission Simeon Beckett, Mr Comben said in 2006/2007 the diocese was asset-rich – to the tune of almost $200 million – but cash-poor.
Mr Comben also told Mr Beckett he had no idea why he didn’t inform police of the serious allegations being made about some clergy.
The former registrar was also questioned about a press release he sent to the Northern Star newspaper in which he cast doubt over some of the allegations.
He told commission chair Justice Peter McClellan he took that stance because he perceived the lawyer for the claimants was bullying, while others in the diocese were telling him there were never any problems at the home.
He now realises the approach he took was wrong.
In a letter dated August 2010, Mr Comben apologises to Mr Richard `Tommy’ Campion, who started the group action, for treating him and his sister with contempt.
Just before the commission rose on Monday, the former Bishop of Grafton, Keith Slater took the stand and confirmed that the Professional Standards and Protocols set up by the Anglican Church to deal with allegations of child sex abuse were not followed properly in this instance.
The commission resumes on Tuesday with Bishop Slater in the witness box.