In the mid-1950s, when I was a teenager in Grafton and an active member of the Anglican community attached to Christ Church Cathedral, I would never have imagined that, one day, from my home in the mountains of south-east France, I would be reading the following solemn statement published by an archdeacon of the Grafton diocese:
Click to enlarge
Click here to see a shocking page of their website, against a background of jacaranda blossoms, on which the diocese includes a link to a 31-page document, created in 2004, bearing the sad title: Protocol for Dealing with Complaints of Sexual Abuse.
I made allusions to Grafton’s unpleasant history in this domain in my blog post of 16 June 2013 entitled In the shadow of Grafton's cathedral [display].
Today, I have no desire to wade through the sordid tales and events that have been unfolding in Sydney’s ongoing Royal Commission into child abuse. But, for readers who might like to follow up these stories, I include here a list of links to relevant Australian media accounts.
• Anglican Church official Pat Comben quizzed in Royal Commission over response to child sex abuse at North Coast Children's Home [link]
• Cleric quits over abuse handling [link]
• Abuse claim priest has quit [link]
• Anglican directory of clergy a 'stud book' [link]
• Brutal assaults at a NSW orphanage [link]
• Church to audit child sex abuse settlement [link]
• Church dissent over abuse approach [link]
• Abuse diocese puts community first [link]
• Smiling bishop Keith Slater failed victims of sex abuse in their hour of need [link]
• I'm not sure I'm still a Christian, Anglican priest Pat Comben says [link]
• Bishop ignored child sex charges [link]
One of the articles contains the following sentence:
The protestant community in Grafton seems close. One could well imagine the conversations at the "dinner parties with a bit of red wine" that Pat Comben, former diocesan registrar, touched on in his evidence to the commission.
That allusion annoys me in the sense that it gives the impression that Grafton Anglicans were in the habit, in a mildly inebriated state, of passing around fragments of sordid information at private dinner parties. That vision of events is far removed from my memories of Arthur Edward Warr, Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, dropping around for weekly chess evenings with my paternal grandfather, with tea and biscuits served up by my grandmother. But I have to admit that, as a boy in Grafton over half a century ago, I had no contacts whatsoever with what might have been thought of as the upper-crust Anglican community of the city.
These days, as a confirmed atheist who looks upon all present-day religions with the utmost disgust, I'm quite delighted to observe that an organization such as the Anglican Church appears to be coming apart at the seams... but I'm immensely sickened by the case of those countless kids who were handled as sexual objects by vile males who were supposed to be the children's guardians.
POST SCRIPTUM: Many former residents of Grafton are aware, I believe, that their “city” has been going slowly down the drain, in countless ways, over several decades. Today, as a symbol of that civic and economic decay, the local mayor and his councillors don’t even talk of Grafton any more. They ramble on stupidly as if they were living in a vague place known as “the Valley”. Be that as it may, I have the impression that the reputation of Grafton is likely to suffer indelibly as a consequence of the ongoing Royal Commission. We can no doubt think of those links in the above blog post as nails in Grafton’s coffin.