THE retired former bishop of Newcastle, BrianFarran, has defended his handling of disciplinary action against former dean Graeme Lawrence, saying that even as bishop he was simply part of a process.
“As I have said before, I am not the Pope, you just can’t do these things,” Mr Farran told the Royal Commissionin response to questions on Thursday afternoon. “There is a process set out, and we were following the process.”
Earlier, in a section of evidence about a push from some within the diocese to change the internal disciplinary –or professional standards –proceedings, Mr Farran had said: “In Anglican polity the bishop is not the Pope, I can’t tell people what to do, I can’t stage elections, it’s a democratic process.”
Resuming evidence that he began on Wednesday, Mr Farran was taken through some of the key controversies in the diocese, including his knowledge of serial paedophile Peter Rushton, who was retired when he arrived but still worshipped at Christ Church Cathedral.
He gave evidence that he knew nothing about Rushton –who died in 2007 –until about 2010, but was later questioned by counsel for Rushton’s successor at Wallsend parish, Roger Dyer, who put it to him that he had ignored Father Dyer’s calls for help until just before Rushton’s crimes were to be published in the media.
Counsel for Mr Dyer, Pauline David, put it to Mr Farran that he had made life “very difficult” for the Wallsend priest, but Mr Farran said that was untrue and that ReverendDyer was “an extremely difficult person” –something that would be borne out in “every appointment he has had”.
Rushton’s ashes had been interred in the church, and when Ms David said that ReverendDyer was having to preach in a pulpit above the ashes of a known paedophile, Mr Farran said he was not a known paedophile “then”.
Farran agonises over defrocking Lawrence Once he went public about Rushton, Mr Farran said people were “furious” with him for “defaming the dead”.
Asked why he hadn’t known earlier, he said there’d beenan almost complete loss of corporate memory from the diocesan office when his predecessor, Bishop Roger Herft, and other staff departed. But counsel assisting the inquiry, Naomi Sharp pointed out that Mr Lawrence, as well as lay figures and solicitors Robert Caddies, Keith Allen and Paul Rosser had all been around.Mr Farran was also asked about Mr Rosser, who was chancellor of the diocese in 2010 at the same time that he was defending an Anglican youth worker, James Brown, charged with child sexual abuse. Mr Farran said he raised the “very harmful” conflict of interest with Mr Rosser, expecting him to withdraw from the case. Instead, Mr Rosser resigned as chancellor, meaning his actions were “totally out of my control”.