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Oz abuse policies under review: The Church of England Newspaper, Oct 21, 2011 October 21, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Anglican Church of Australia, Canon Law, Church of England Newspaper.
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Archbishop Phillip Aspinall

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia is backing a rethink of the Church’s sexual abuse reporting polices.

Archbishop Phillip Aspinall of Brisbane told the Australian that he was having “second thoughts” about the policy of mandatory reporting of child abuse allegations to the police – regardless of the victim’s wishes.

In the wake of the child abuse reporting scandal that forced the former Archbishop of Brisbane, Dr Peter Hollingworth, to resign as Governor General of Australia in 2003 after he was found to have inadequately investigated child abuse claims in his diocese, his successor, Dr Aspinall, introduced the mandatory reporting requirement.

The diocesan protocol, which is followed by most Australian dioceses, is to turn over all complaints of child abuse to the police for investigation. Brisbane follows this policy, the Archbishop said, but he did see the wisdom of arguments that the wishes of the victim should be considered.

“When you’re dealing with an adult who is reporting abuse that happened to them as a child, it’s really important to empower that adult,” he said.

“And if you take that decision out of their hands and say, ‘Regardless of what you want, I’m going to report it to the police’, you are disempowering that adult and maybe even re-abusing them.

“I understand that position. But we have taken the view that because of the need to be accountable to the wider public, and because of allegations of cover-up and what have you in the past, then we will report everything.

“And then it is a matter between the police and the complainant … the Church will not interpose itself in that relationship and lay itself open to the allegation of covering up.”

Dr Aspinall has asked the diocese’s professional standards commission to review the policies, and to see whether Australia should adopt the policy currently in force in the Church of England, which takes the victim’s views into account.

The Australian reported that under the current protocol, three clergy have been defrocked. In 2005, 29 cases were reported to the Church. Only one complaint was filed last year and none have been submitted this year – there were no active investigations, the diocese reported.

The House of Bishops’ policy and its accompanying guidance ‘Protecting all God’s Children’ and government guidelines found in ‘Working together to Safeguard Children 2006’ forms the basis of diocesan policies in Britain.

The Church of England’s policy commits it to the “safeguarding, care and nurture of the children within our church community;” to “respond without delay to every complaint made, that a child or young person for whom we are responsible may have been harmed;” to “fully cooperate with statutory agencies;” to “offer informed pastoral care” to those who have “suffered abuse;” and to “care for and supervise any member of our church community known to have offended against a child.”

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