Names of cheating clergy in Australia will be put on register of sex offenders

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Anglican Church in Australia plans to put the names of clergy who engage in extramarital affairs on a register of sex offenders.

The morally conservative Sydney Diocese of the Church is behind the move, which will require married clergy from Iraq to have their names included on the register even if they are only accused of infidelity.

Clerical chastity — a ban on extra-marital affairs — is already in the voluntary code of conduct for clergy. The inclusion of extramarital affairs on the Church’s register of sexually inappropriate conduct would block the renewal of licences for ministers.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesAnglican Church of Australia

18 Comments
Posted October 24, 2007 at 7:56 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. slanehill wrote:

He denied that the register amounted to a blacklist based on innuendo, saying: “We are not going to set up a bureau of investigation, but obviously when these sorts of things happen, either the person concerned or the people [who] know the facts, sometimes can be concerned and they come forward and make a complaint. So it is based on complaints.” He added: “We don’t want to go snooping around in people’s bedrooms. On the other hand, both the people in the Church and, presumably, in the community, expect ministers will be faithful to their spouses.”

While I laud the effort to hold the clergy to a high standard, it makes me a bit queasy that the simple accusation of behaviour is enough to get placed on this list.

October 24, 8:26 am | [comment link]
2. Philip Snyder wrote:

What is up with “married clergy from Iraq?”  Is this a form of discrimination against Anglican Clergy in the Archdiocese of Sydney who are also immigrants from Iraq (a decidedly small group) or is this an attempt by the Times to interject Ira

October 24, 8:32 am | [comment link]
3. Philip Snyder wrote:

(continuing my previous post
... or is this an attempt by the Times to interject Iraq into evey story?

Other than that, I am a bit troubled by the fact that an allegation will place a deacon, priest, or bishop on the list.  If this list is to be used as a screening method, then some form of proof should be required.  I support clergy being suspended or deposed when they engage in sex outside of marriage, but having your name put on a list because of an unfounded allegation is a bit much.

YBIC,
Phil Snyder

October 24, 8:35 am | [comment link]
4. Br. Michael wrote:

If non-clergy are routinely subjected to this than the clergy should not be exempt.

October 24, 8:37 am | [comment link]
5. KAR wrote:

Standards for clergy, imagine that.  Wow! Good show.

October 24, 8:37 am | [comment link]
6. obadiahslope wrote:

The general synod wrestled with this issue. Unfounded or vexatious complaints will be removed from the register. Complaints that are found to be unproven but which come with evidence will be included in the register.
An evangelical at the synod blogged “The highlight of the afternoon session was agreement to the National Register Canon, along with its protocols and the Professional Standards Commission (PSC) motions. The Register’s final form was only agreed to after several ‘huddles’ of the interested parties worked hard on amendments to iron out the balance of protecting the vulnerable from sexual abuse and misconduct and protecting the reputation of the innocent. I understand it took some argy-bargy, but the final result was well received.” http://your.sydneyanglicans.net/insight/bob_the_church_builder_general_synod_blog_5/

October 24, 9:28 am | [comment link]
7. slanehill wrote:

While it is a good thing that unfounded allegations will be removed, it still seems to me that it is dangerous to include names first, then do an investigation.  This opens up too much room for destroying reputations and personal lives.  The mere placing of names on the list implies guilt.

October 24, 9:35 am | [comment link]
8. chips wrote:

I guess the Iraq comment is a non-sequitor?

October 24, 9:36 am | [comment link]
9. obadiahslope wrote:

Slanehill,
1) The investigation happens first. Names are included only if there is enough evidence to conclude there is a case to answer.
2) the list is NOT public. Only the (Arch)bishop, the professional standards officer, and a third person delegated by the (arch)bishop in each diocese will have access. If a serious complaint is raised these people will know about it anyway.

October 24, 10:14 am | [comment link]
10. Words Matter wrote:

#4 -

Non-clergy, at least in the U.S.,  are subject to placement on a sex offender registry based on convictions in a court of law, not on allegations. 

It is reprehensible that unproven allegations are made so public;  allegations and investigative materials can certainly be kept in a personnel file made available upon legitimate request.  In the U.S., any organization engaging in that sort of thing would be - and should be - sued.

October 24, 10:30 am | [comment link]
11. obadiahslope wrote:

I can’t see much difference between “allegations and investigative materials can certainly be kept in a personnel file made available upon legitimate request.” and the Register being set up by the Anglican Church of Australia. At present such materials are kept by each diocese. The register is designed to allow a diocese access to material about a priest who moves into it from another diocese.

October 24, 10:43 am | [comment link]
12. Philip Snyder wrote:

#4 & #10 - this seems to be a Church registry, not a national or criminal one.  I am glad that some investigation occurs before a name is placed on there.  It is possible to have an affair and for there to be no outside evidence of it.  Likewise, it is possible for allegations to be made without the affair actually taking place.

YBIC,
Phil Snyder

October 24, 11:09 am | [comment link]
13. Words Matter wrote:

I have some professional contact with the sex offender registry, so the term implies public access to me. Apparently, the registry is limited to senior diocesan officials, which ameliorates my concern.  I should have read it all, of course. 

Still, it seems overkill to me; I would think a normal part of licensing a minister from another diocese would be to review his personnel records. And I am still squeamish about including unconfirmed complaints.  That just invites abuse.

October 24, 2:05 pm | [comment link]
14. robroy wrote:

Billy Graham never would allow himself to be in a room by himself with a woman. Good advice. I heed it as a physician. If clergy were fastidious in keeping this advice (and made the restriction publically known), I doubt any charges would ever be made.

October 24, 6:03 pm | [comment link]
15. obadiahslope wrote:

Words,
this is an attempt to gather the records in a uniform way, keep them secure and encourage dioceses to exchange information. The devastation caused by a pedophile group that operated within a anglican youth organisation across three states forms a background to the care and attention the General Synod has given the topic. A pattern of complaints that have some evidence behind them, while falling short of a conviction can alert the authorities to investigate further, or react with more sympathy to complainants.

October 24, 7:33 pm | [comment link]
16. Vincent Coles wrote:

The article begins and ends with non sequiturs. The mention of Iraq is simply bizarre. To conclude a story about Australia with unproven allegations about clergy in England and Wales is equally bizarre. The Times could find this a very expensive error of judgement.

October 24, 8:04 pm | [comment link]
17. JonReinert wrote:

The impetus for the register in regard to pedophilia was the SA case.  However there has been concern about fidelity as well, we recently had a case where two married clergy both left the partners and ran off together, our local bishop withdrew their licenses and yet they were both licensed in another diocese almost the minute they arrived.

The problem with the register is going to be with “offenses” which are not illegal.  There have been a couple of cases in the UK lately where clergy dismissed for impropiety have taken their cases to law and the rulings have gone against the church.  The fiction that clergy are not employees is getting finaly a bit thin.
Jon R

October 24, 8:49 pm | [comment link]
18. obadiahslope wrote:

Here’s a fuller account of the details of the register
http://your.sydneyanglicans.net/sydneystories/abuse_register_goes_ahead/
This par may address some of the cocerns raised on this thread:
‘Concerns from clergy that their reputations may be unfairly tarnished by untested allegations were eased with a further bar added before complaints of child abuse or sexual misconduct could be added to the register.

The change means that a complaint will not be added to the register if a tribunal finds that on the balance of probabilities the allegations did not occur.

“We are trying to balance two principles,” said Mr Blake. “Protect the vulnerable and protect the innocent.” ’

October 25, 12:19 am | [comment link]
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