From the Administrator

Dear Sisters and Brothers 

I am confronted by the continuing distress and sadness across the Diocese surrounding the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The coverage of the Commission’s work in Newcastle has shocked us all, in particular the horrifying stories from survivors as they recount their trauma.  Many of us feel betrayed, angry and helpless.  Our corporate shame is a genuine response to confronting the truth, but the truth will set us free (John 8:32). That freedom may include discarding the denial of human sinfulness and accepting the understanding that clergy are human and do not need to be placed on a pedestal. Freedom from an unhealthy privilege and power differential which facilitated this abuse, and a freedom to embrace again the absolute passionate desire to regain our moral authority can only occur from a position of humility.

As the people of God we must continue to do much soul searching as we struggle with the ramifications of what we hear, we must suffer the emotional turmoil and let it motivate us to seek the best ways to ensure that all children remain safe in our churches and agencies, always. Such should be our mandate and is the mandate given to us by Christ, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” (Matthew 19: 14) 

On 14 August, I asked all parish priests to place a notice in their bulletin which addressed training and the rigorous expectations we now place on leaders in our churches, and on clergy, with regard to ChurchSafe. I know all will agree that this is no longer optional, but must be mandatory for us all. There may be some who feel indignant at these measures.  Personally, I think they ground us all and ensure arrogant self-interest is sacrificed, rather than the innocent.

Church Office has received a number of telephone calls, emails and letters that reflect the distress being experienced by members of our community. No doubt, you have also experienced this in your parishes, agencies and communities. We must continue to listen, be open to hear their pain, walk alongside them and encourage constructive actions that will help to bring some form of healing and hope to those who are suffering. Please encourage those who disclose abuse to contact the police, or Ms Tracie Chambers-Clark and the Professional Standards Unit.  

Archbishop Roger Herft remains on scheduled long service leave at this time.  He is expected to give evidence again at the Royal Commission at the end of this month. Accordingly, he remains unable to make any public statements on the Commission's public hearing into the Newcastle Diocese.  The Archbishop is not due to return to the Diocese until mid-October 2016, and as such I will remain as Administrator of the Diocese until then, with a short break in September when Bishop Kate will act as Administrator.  

If you have any concerns or need clarification regarding these matters please do not hesitate to contact Bishops Kate and Jeremy, Tracie Chambers-Clark, or myself on 9325 7455. Counselling services are available if you would like to take advantage of them, if the anger, fear and complex responses within you are interfering with your health or capacity to work.  

As we wait, let us pray for the abused, their families, and those who seek to help and bring healing to them and for our church.  Let us continue to minister as God's people to the communities we are called to serve. Let us watch and pray in faithful witness to the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6).  May our desire to right the wrongs of the past ensure the safety of the vulnerable in the present and into the future.

Please pray also for Archbishop Roger and Cheryl, for their family, for those who support and assist them during this time and for the Bishops, clergy and laity of the Diocese of Newcastle.

Loving God, whose Son was both victim and victor, we cry to you for those who suffer abuse, especially those children who were in our care and were not kept safe. Help us to open our hearts as they share their pain and suffering. Heal the wounds of body and mind; break open the prisons of fear, self-doubt and despair; and strengthen them as they face the future with hope, courage and the knowledge that they have been heard and are not alone. Help us to reach out with your love and compassion, to accept our failing, that their journey to wholeness might truly begin. Amen.

Your fellow traveller in the Way

Kind regards
Braden Short