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Aspinall to step down as primate: The Church of England Newspaper, June 20, 2014 June 26, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper.
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The Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, the Most Rev. Phillip Aspinall, has announced that it is his intention to step down from his post this month before the church’s 16th General Synod set for 29 June to 4 July 2014 at St Peter’s College in Adelaide. Dr. Aspinall (54) will remain Archbishop of Brisbane and Metropolitan of the Province of Queensland, but announced he was resigning now in order for a new primate to be elected by the August visit to Australia of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Chosen by a Panel of Electors, comprised of 12 clergy and 12 lay members chosen by General Synod, and the members of the House of Bishops, the primate of the ACA is selected from among the church’s diocesan bishops by a simple majority vote. Traditionally, the office has fallen to one of the five metropolitan archbishops in Australia. The office of primate in Australia does not confer metropolitan powers over the church on its office holder and is largely a ceremonial position.

Church property cannot be used to compensate abuse victims says archbishop: The Church of England Newspaper, March 7, 2014 March 20, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper.
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The Anglican Church of Australia has urged a Royal Commission investigating child abuse to distinguish between legal and moral responsibility for the crimes of abhorrent clergy and church workers, noting the national church is not liable for the actions of individuals.

Church lands and buildings thus cannot be sold to compensate victims of child abuse, the church argued.

submission made following investigations into the Diocese of Grafton’s handling of child abuse at a church run children’s home in Lismore stated, the Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, the Most Rev. Phillip Aspinall wrote “However, as the assets of all dioceses in Australia are usually held on charitable trusts the Commission should examine the terms upon which assets are held before concluding that they are available for a purpose such as paying compensation claims.”

The paper prepared by Dr. Aspinall, the Anglican Church of Australia’s General Secretary Martin Drevikovsky and the Diocese of Brisbane’s Professional Standards Director Rodney McLary came in response to a finding by the counsel assisting the commission, Simeon Beckett, that the Diocese of Grafton had sufficient assets to settle abuse claims arising from the North Coast Children’s Home abuse cases.

In a harsh indictment of the diocese and its leaders, Mr. Beckett concluded the church had put its financial interests ahead of the good of the victims.  ”The evidence established that the diocese was able to liquidate a substantial number of assets in order to service the debt incurred from the Clarence Valley Anglican School,” Mr. Beckett wrote, “but did not do so for those claiming they had suffered from child sexual abuse.”

While not excusing the actions of the Bishop of Grafton and diocesan officials, Dr. Aspinall urged the commission to be more precise in its terms.

“The Anglican Diocese of Grafton was at all relevant times an unincorporated association with a fluctuating membership. At all relevant times prior to 1 January 1962 the Anglican Diocese of Grafton was part of the Church of England. The Anglican Church of Australia did not exist until 1962. It is submitted that the Commission needs to be explicit as to what is meant by the term ‘had responsibility’. If it is legal responsibility then that was with the particular Management Committee constituted from time to time. If it is ‘moral responsibility’ it raises a range of issues and circumstances in which individuals could, in good faith, reach different conclusions about what are the relevant moral principles and how they should they be applied,” the submission stated.

The question of compensation for abuse has arisen in a number of the cases examined by the commission, however under Australian law the charitable trust status of churches and some institutes is a legal bar to their being held liable for abuse.

Australian church readies for criticism from child abuse report: The Church of England Newspaper, June 30, 2013 p 6 July 2, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper.
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The primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, the Most Rev. Phillip Aspinall, Archbishop of Brisbane, has warned the church will come under heavy criticism when The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse publishes its findings.

In his address to the 22 June 2013 meeting of Brisbane Synod Dr. Aspinall said the “truth will come out”.

“It will. And we want it to even though there will be times when we will feel ashamed and sickened at that truth,” he said.

Dioceses across Australia have been stung by revelations that some clergy and church workers abused young people and that a culture of silence once governed the church’s response. However child safeguarding reforms and an aggressive policy in combating and reporting abuse to police has been in place for over 10 years.

Nevertheless the church’s current are “not going to stop us from copping heavy criticism in the years ahead,” Dr. Aspinall told reporters at the end of the meeting. “People ought not to be discouraged by the criticism.”

“Yes we have to face squarely and cop criticism where it is deserved we have to face the fact that abused happened and fix it,” he said according to press accounts from Australia.

Call for Royal Commission on child abuse in Australia: The Church of England Newspaper, November 25, 2012 p 7 November 29, 2012

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Anglican leaders in Australia have welcomed Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s creation of a national Royal Commission to investigate institutional responses to instances of child sexual abuse.

“The Diocese of Sydney expresses its unqualified abhorrence of child abuse, wherever it occurs,” Archbishop Peter Jensen said on 12 November 2012.

“While the terms of reference have yet to be decided, we will work and pray for an outcome that will result in a safer society for the most vulnerable,” Dr Jensen said.

The Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, Dr Phillip Aspinall, voiced his support for the Commission also. “Of the nearly 3.6 million Australians who call themselves Anglican, statistically, one in four women and one in eight men are victims of abuse, so it is something that affects our Church on many levels,” he said.

A spokesman for the Primate said: “A decade ago Brisbane Archbishop Dr Phillip Aspinall called for a national Royal Commission into child sexual abuse. His call was dismissed by the Prime Minister of the time, and also rejected at a state level. Archbishop Aspinall believed then, as he does now, that the evil of child sexual assault needs to be addressed nationally, without fear or favour, respecting only the facts.”

On 12 November, the Prime Minister told reporters that she had asked the Governor General to charter a Royal Commission with wide-ranging powers to investigate church, charitable and state child care institutions as well as the responses of child service agencies and the police to allegations of abuse.

The formation of a Royal Commission comes amidst mounting media pressure in Australia to investigate child abuse committed in institutions such as orphanages, hostels and foster care homes. Last week a senior New South Wales police official accused the Roman Catholic Church of covering up child abuse in its institutions and protecting paedophile priests.

“The allegations that have come to light recently about child sexual abuse have been heartbreaking,” Ms Gillard said at a Canberra press conference.

“These are insidious, evil acts to which no child should be subject.”

“Australians know… that too many children have suffered child abuse, but have also seen other adults let them down – they’ve not only had their trust betrayed by the abuser but other adults who could have acted to assist them but have failed to do so.

“There have been too many revelations of adults who have averted their eyes from this evil.

“I believe in these circumstances that it’s appropriate for there to be a national response through a Royal Commission,” the Prime Minister said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Adelaide Supreme Court to review Australia’s church disciplinary canons: The Church of England Newspaper, September 2, 2012 September 6, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper.
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An Australian diocese has asked the Supreme Court of South Australia to uphold the legality of the Anglican Church of Australia’s clergy disciplinary code following the successful appeal of a suspended archdeacon.

The Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, Archbishop Phillip Aspinall, has also joined the Diocese of the Murray in seeking an order from the court overturning the findings of Neville Morcombe QC, who last April held the diocese’s Professional Standards Board did not have jurisdiction to examine Archdeacon Peter Coote’s alleged misconduct.

Dr. Aspinall argued that unless the Supreme Court reaffirms the legality of the diocesan and national church disciplinary canons, the church’s ability to discipline its clergy could collapse.  The latest court proceedings in the Coote affair cap an 8-year saga for the Diocese of the Murray, which led in part to the dismissal of its former bishop, the Rt. Rev. Ross Davies.

In 2004Archdeacon Coote was accused of sexual misconduct by three female members of the diocese.  After investigation the diocese’s Professionals Standards Committee found the allegations to be credible and in July 2007 Fr. Coote was dismissed as archdeacon and his licence to officiate as a priest suspended in 2008.

The diocesan decision was sent to the national church’s Professional Standards Board for review, and in 2009 the board upheld the decision.  Fr. Coote appealed that decision and review by an independent attorney followed, which included a new hearing before a newly constituted Professional Standards Board.

The new board issued its decision in March 2011, which Fr. Coote subsequently appealed, and the case was sent to Mr. Morcombe for review.  In April 2012 he concluded the board had no jurisdiction to investigate Fr. Coote and ruled the board had no jurisdiction to undertake its inquiry. The diocesan standards committee responded in June with its appeal to the civil courts asking for a declaration that the Professional Standards Board had jurisdiction to hear the case, and a ruling that the Morcombe finding be dismissed.

Attorneys for Fr. Coote urged the Supreme Court to uphold the Morcombe decision, and argued the 2007 disciplinary canon was inconsistent with Article IX of the church’s constitution.

Represented by the Adelaide law firm Iles Selley, Archbishop Aspinall asked permission to intervene in the case to defend the “constitutional validity” of the diocesan and national church disciplinary canons.

“The Professional Standards Ordinance 2007 of the Diocese of the Murray is largely mirrored in some 21 of the 23 dioceses which constitute the Anglican Church of Australia,” Archbishop Aspinall’s pleading said.

“Were any challenge to the validity of any professional standards ordinance to succeed, or should such a view be expressed by this honourable court, it may have widespread and adverse consequences for all of the dioceses that make up the Anglican Church of Australia,” the archbishop argued, adding that as primate, he had “an interest in the proper interpretation of the National Constitution and, in particular, insofar as it affects the rights, powers and responsibilities of individual dioceses.”

On 24 Sept 2010, Archdeacon Coote’s former superior, Bishop Davies, resigned as Bishop of The Murray one day before a tribunal met to hear nine counts of misconduct laid against him by the Archbishop of Adelaide and Bishop of Willochra.

After two days of hearings, the tribunal found the former bishop guilty of misconduct in absentia and recommended he be removed from the episcopate.  Among the charges that led to his being deposed, Bishop Davies was adjudged to have subverted the Professional Standards processes by failing to respond to allegations of sexual misconduct made against Archdeacon Coote.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Anglican “no” to gay marriage in Australia: The Church of England Newspaper, December 16, 2011 December 17, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper, Marriage.
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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Anglican leaders have called for the rejection of the legalization of gay marriage in Australia.

Statements made by the primate, Archbishop Phillip Aspinall of Brisbane, and Archbishop Peter Jensen of Sydney follow upon the 3 Dec 2011 vote by delegates to the Australian Labor Party’s national conference to support gay marriage.

However, the conference also endorsed Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s call to allow ALP MP’s a free vote when amendments to the federal Marriage Act come before parliament next year.  While the governing ALP and the Greens support gay marriage, the opposition has instructed its members to vote against the change, while a number of Right Labor MPs have voiced opposition to the change.

In a statement released last week, Dr. Aspinall said that while the Anglican Church “acknowledges and continues to participate” in the national debate over gay marriage, it does so from the position of “commitment to the present definition of marriage in the federal Marriage Act.”

He noted the 2010 General Synod had expressed its “commitment to the present definition of Marriage under Commonwealth Law: that marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.”

Dr. Aspinall added that while many Anglicans supported state recognition of same-sex civil unions, “changing the definition of ‘marriage’ away from the exclusivity of male and female is not consistent with the Church’s current view.”

The Archbishop of Sydney rejected the philosophical and ethical premise behind the push for gay marriage.  In a 3 Dec 2011 statement, he said the ALP had a “proud history” of supporting equality, “so it is disappointing to see it divided over the false rhetoric of ‘equality’ surrounding same-sex marriage.”

The definition of marriage under law “is not a denial of rights,” he said, noting that “issues of inequity regarding the financial and legal status of same-sex relationships have already been addressed by the Parliament and I have supported these changes.”

But the ALP must consider the cost of tinkering with marriage.  “Redefining marriage will have unintended and unwelcome consequences for the meaning of parenthood, our openness to other forms of marriage, sex education and our commitment to religious freedom,” Dr. Jensen said.

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.”