'Clergy Sexually Abusing Their Flock'
Anglican Priest Calls for Removal of Guilty Ones from Front-Line Duties

By TK Whyte
Jamaica Observer
July 4, 2006

An Anglican priest Sunday charged that sexual misbehaviour among the clergy was a serious problem and called for the removal from front-line duties of those who "feed sexually" on members of their flock.

"It is immoral, unchristian and unethical for the shepherd to feed on the sheep sexually or otherwise, instead of tending the sheep," declared the Rev Father Patrick Cunningham, rector of Christ Church, Vineyard Town in East Kingston.

Cunningham also warned that clergymen guilty of sexual abuse should not merely be shifted to another parish, saying that simply shifting such clergy did not solve the problem, "it only shifts the problem to another parish".

Delivering the homily before a large congregation at the ordination mass for three members to the Anglican clergy at the historic St James Cathedral in Spanish Town, the St Catherine capital, the priest urged his listeners not to focus only on homosexuality but the wider topic of sexuality among the laity and clergy.

"...There are many heterosexuals who are creating severe problems in the church," he said. "This must be addressed, for in many instances this is a betrayal of trust and the clergy meeting their needs at the expense of some innocent lambs entrusted to their care."

But he acknowledged that the debate on the issue of homosexuality was threatening turmoil and division in the Anglican Church.

Asked yesterday if he chose his topic because the Anglican Church in Jamaica was having a problem with sexual abuse among its clergy, Cunningham back-tracked somewhat, saying he was speaking generally and not to a specific incident.

However, he pointed to the United States where the ordination of an openly gay priest had split the church asunder and unleashed a fierce debate on the sexual bevahiour of the clergy.

Cunningham, whose sombre words held the rapt attention of his congregation, preached that the world was filled with people who were traumatised because of sexual abuse, noting that some had left the church or were afraid to go to some church buildings.

"The bishop, priest or deacon who lives only to gratify self will never shepherd other people, regardless of his/her title or position or perceived status," he said.

But Cunningham appealed for love and compassion for erring clergymen in their moments of failure, saying that "clergy are human beings with faults and weaknesses".

And he emphasised that although he had used the words "innocent lambs", he recognised that "some of these lambs are guilty of enticing the shepherd".

Nevertheless, said Fr Cunningham, "sexual misbehaviour among the clergy is a serious problem", and he quoted Anglican authorities to say that "because pastors are placed in positions of power over people, including many people in great need, it is more onerous when they use such positions to prey upon others for their own sexual gratification".

Suffragan Bishop of Kingston, the Rt Rev Robert Thompson, ordained deacons Elizabeth Riley and Owen Lambert to the Sacred Order of Priests and Michael George Elliott to the Holy Order of Deacons.

Riley is the 25th female priest to be added to the Anglican diocese. Of the other 24 female priests, 22 work in Jamaica while the other two are abroad.

In 1997, the first three female deacons were ordained to the priesthood.


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