Newcastle Anglican diocese’s defrocked Dean is still influential, the royal commission has heard

The ‘shadow life’ of Dean Graeme Lawrence Influential: Defrocked Anglican Dean of Newcastle Graeme Lawrence in 1986 in front of Christchurch Cathedral.

Defrocked: Former Anglican priest Bruce Hoare, allegedly a member of a “gang of three” that protected priest Peter Rushton.

Allegation: Former Newcastle diocese registrar Peter Mitchell alleged to be a member of a “gang of three” that protected Peter Rushton.

Notorious: Hunter child sex offender Anglican priest Peter Rushton.

Convicted: Former Anglican priest Ian Barrick, convicted of sex offences against a boy.

Convicted: Former Newcastle Anglican priest Alan Kitchingman, convicted of child sex offences.

TweetFacebook The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is investigating the ‘shadow lives’ of priests Priests pornography hoardFormer altar boy tells of years of abuse by priest CKCI wasn’t told about abuse: bishopTears flow as horrors recountedThe priest who sounded alarmAS IT HAPPENED: Royal Commission day oneAS IT HAPPENED: Royal Commission day twoAS IT HAPPENED: Royal Commission day three​HE was the man who brought Newcastle together in 1989 after an earthquake killed 13 people and severely damaged the Anglican Christchurch Cathedral.

He was the senior Newcastle cleric with a prominent role on the Anglican Church’s sexual abuse working group in 2003 that developed national professionalstandards.

But the 13thAnglicanDean of Newcastle, Graeme Lawrence, was also in a“gang of three” protecting anotorious Hunter paedophile priest, and led a Griffith group of offenders to the Hunterwho were later defrockedafter child sex allegations, the royal commission has heard.

Over the next two weeks the commission will hear evidence Mr Lawrence’s power and influence protected child sex offenders for several decades, but did not end with his defrocking in 2012.

“It is anticipated there will be evidence that Lawrence had, and continues to have, considerable influence in the diocese,” counsel assisting Naomi Sharp told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse sitting in Newcastle on Tuesday.

That influence includes an allegation he has continued to preach at Adamstown parish despite the defrocking.

The opening day of the 42ndroyal commission case studyheard shocking evidence of abuse by survivors, but equally shocking evidence of networks supporting Anglican child sex offenders for decades.

Graeme Lawrence was at the centre of a number of those networks, while also taking calls in the late 1990s on the diocese’s child sexual abuse phone line.

Former Newcastle archdeacon, Colvin Ford, will tell the royal commission he believed notorious child sex offender priest Peter Rushton was protected by what he called a “gang of three” –Mr Lawrence, defrocked priest Bruce Hoare and diocesan registrar Peter Mitchell.

Mitchell was convicted in of stealing nearly $200,000 from the diocese and sentenced to 21 months’ jail.

He said the money was taken so that he could live “far too comfortably”.

The then Anglican Bishop of Newcastle Roger Herft told the Newcastle Herald “we are all very sad” about what happened.

“He (Mitchell) has been a close friend and a significant part of diocesan life,”he said.

“We have been praying for him.”

Former professional standards board president Colin Elliott will give evidence there was a “cohort of Newcastle Cathedral practitioners who appear, unquestionably to have supported Graeme Lawrence”.

Mr Lawrence lived at the Christchurch Cathedral deanery with his partner Greg Goyette, while Mr Hoare lived at the canon’s residence at the cathedral.

From the 1980s to the 1990s Mr Lawrence, Peter Rushton and Bruce Hoare were part of the leadership team in the diocese, and were members of the diocesecommittee that considered child sex allegations against priests.

The royal commission will hear evidence Mr Lawrence, who arrived in Newcastle from Griffith from 1984, was one of a group of four trainee priests at St John’s Theological College at Morpeth in 1963 who went on to be accused, or convicted, of child sex offences.

The royal commission was told former Newcastle Bishop Brian Farran was also at the college in 1963.

In the next two weeks former Newcastle Bishop, and now Archbishop, Roger Herft, and former Sydney Archbishop Harry Goodhew will give evidence about an allegation made in 1996 that Lawrence sexually abused children.

“This allegation was raised with the then Archbishop of Sydney, Harry Goodhew,” Ms Sharp told the royal commission.

“He in turn raised it with Bishop Herft. A filenote suggests that Lawrence denied the allegation to Bishop Herft. Bishop Herft and Bishop Goodhew will be asked about this matter.”

Mr Lawrence provided references to three Anglican priests, including Alan Kitchingman and Ian Barrick, after they were convicted of child sex offences.

The royal commission will hear evidence of Mr Lawrence’s early association with Anglican priests Andrew Duncan, Bruce Hoare andGraham Sturt in Griffith, and the move of the four men to the Hunter.

The royal commission will hear evidence about child sex allegations against the four, and Mr Lawrence’s partner Greg Goyette, which were the subject of professional standards hearings in Newcastle in 2010, that led to the priests’ defrocking, and orders that Mr Goyette can never hold a position in the church.

The evidence will include that Mr Lawrence groomed and sexually abused a 16-year-old boy in 1981, after Anglican priest Andrew Duncan told him that Mr Lawrence was “part of the family”.

In 2015 Newcastle Bishop Greg Thompson issued an historic apology to child sexual abuse victims in the Hunter, and said the diocese believed more than 30 child sex offenders had abused children for decades.

Bishop Thompson said the culture of abuse within the diocese had to change so that “mates” weren’t looking after “mates” anymore.

‘‘Some of our photos of clergy on the walls are going to be difficult to hang on the walls after the royal commission,’’ he said in June 2015.

‘‘What is being revealed is the shadow lives of some.

‘‘They had this sense of self-entitlement that meant they had sexual relations with children as if that was a part of the role.’’

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