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Legal loophole reinstates controversial clergymen

Bishop Keith Slater has retained his orders of bishop, priest and deacon after a successful appeal to the Anglican Church of Australia last year.
Bishop Keith Slater has retained his orders of bishop, priest and deacon after a successful appeal to the Anglican Church of Australia last year.

ANGER has erupted among church abuse victims after a legal loophole within the laws of the Anglican Church has allowed a Bishop and Reverend to be reinstated two years after being deposed.

Former bishop, Rt Rev Keith Slater and Rev Patrick Comben were stripped of their Holy Orders due to their handling of sexual and physical abuse claims by former residents at the North Coast Children's Home between 1940-1980.

Their attempted defrocking was the result of a church inquiry into evidence of historic child sex abuse at the home at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Rt Rev Keith Slater appealed the decision before an Appellate Tribunal of the Anglican Church of Australia in November last year.

In a statement, The Anglican Diocese of Grafton said that under the Professional Standards Ordinance of 2004 the Grafton (Diocesan) Professional Standards Board had no jurisdiction to examine the conduct of Bishop Slater. This means his orders of bishop, priest and deacon were retained.

After obtaining legal advice, the now-Bishop of Grafton Diocese Rt Rev Sarah Macneil informed Rev Comben that his deposition was null and void.

 

Witness Reverend Pat Comben leaves a public hearing into the response of the Anglican Church's Diocese of Grafton to claims of child sexual abuse at the North Coast Children's Home, during the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Sydney, Friday, Nov. 22, 2013.
Witness Reverend Pat Comben leaves a public hearing into the response of the Anglican Church's Diocese of Grafton to claims of child sexual abuse at the North Coast Children's Home, during the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Sydney, Friday, Nov. 22, 2013. QUENTIN JONES

The news has enraged abuse survivors such as Richard "Tommy" Campion, who was brutally abused at the Lismore-based children's home.

Mr Campion said it was "the most shocking thing he's ever heard of".

He was also instrumental in pushing for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, where he also gave evidence of his abuse at the institution as a child.

"Most people don't understand the hassle and the problem and the heartache that the children in the home had to go through.

"They weren't there, they didn't read the letters, they didn't front the Royal Commission, they weren't there. It's appalling that they can accept them back into the church."

 

Bishop Keith Slater.
Photo The Northern Star Archives
Bishop Keith Slater. Photo The Northern Star Archives The Northern Star Archives

Amid the anger and despair, Registrar at the Diocese of Armidale Ron Perry sympathised with those who were abused at the hands of the church.

He said the issue was expected to be discussed at the upcoming General Synod, a meeting held every few years with the heads of diocese around Australia.

Mr Parry would be one of those involved at the General Synod, which he said would "guide the future" on the "lack of jurisdiction" that led to Bishop Slater and subsequently Rev Comeben's reinstatement.

He said the Royal Commission has driven the church to "improve its game".

"No one is just sitting around and wishing it would go away," Mr Parry said.

Topics:  anglican church northern rivers community northern rivers religion royal commision into child sexual abuse



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