We Did Not Act Quickly Enough: Archbishop

By Louise Treccasi
The Advertiser [Australia]
May 26, 2003

THE Anglican Church has admitted it may have been "too slow" and inadequate in its response to a pedophile network which allegedly operated in South Australia and Tasmania for nearly 40 years.

A letter by Adelaide Archbishop Ian George to the Anglican clergy about the "disturbing" allegations was yesterday read at church services across Adelaide.

"To those affected by abuse I express, once again and on behalf of the diocese, my deepest regret and compassion," Archbishop George said.

"As we have reflected on our processes we have discovered that, at times, they may have been too slow and cumbersome and at times may not have been completely adequate for the task.

"On behalf of the diocese, I express my regret that people who have sought help from the church may not have received the help they needed and in the way they expected."

Archbishop George's letter was in response to allegations by the Rev Don Owers and the Rev Andrew King that former Church of England Boys Society chief commissioner Robert Brandenburg and three senior Anglican colleagues have been implicated in SA and Tasmania with an estimated 200 cases of child sex abuse dating back to the 1960s.

Dr Owers and Mr King have called for an independent inquiry for an explanation on what the church knew about the sexual abuse of the CEBS teenage members.

Brandenburg is believed to have committed suicide in June, 1999, by drowning at the Thorndon Park Reservoir, Paradise, soon after he was charged with child-sex offences.

In his letter, Archbishop George said the diocese was continually developing and revising its procedures to deal with complaints.

"We have processes which will ensure that victims who seek care and support will receive it," he said.

In response to calls for an inquiry into the way the complaints and sexual abuse and misconduct were handled by the church, Archbishop George said: "We are committed to respond fully to the victims, their families and friends."

Dr Owers, a former parish priest of Brandenburg, yesterday spoke to parishioners during a sermon at St George's Church at Magill of the seriousness of the "awful stain of covert abuse".

Dr Owers alerted the Adelaide Anglican Diocese about the abuse in April, 1999.

Many of Brandenburg's victims came from a CEBS youth group based at St George's Church, which Brandenburg led for more than 20 years.

Dr Owers said he had experienced "anxiety worse than I can remember".

"But don't grieve for me because the anxiety I have experienced is nothing like the anxiety experienced by survivors of abuse," he told the congregation.

Dr Owers said it was only after years of pleading and not being heard that he took the necessary steps.

"Andrew King and I came to the point where we could stay silent no longer," he said.

"We pray that the truth will set the church free, free from the awful stain of covert abuse, free from the harm done by such abuse to young people, harm which is carried with them through their lives."

Dr Owers also attacked the diocese's employment of public relation companies to handle this issue, saying they "will not set us free".

Archbishop George said yesterday he did not want to comment further.


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