Australian bishop Roger Herft ‘failed vulnerable children’

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A FORMER Bishop of Newcastle in the Province of New South Wales, the Rt Revd Roger Herft, has been strongly criticised by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

In a report on the diocese’s handling of the issue, released this week, the commission said that “there was a substantial failure in risk management during Bishop Herft’s episcopate. This left children at risk.” There were no disciplinary processes against clergy against whom allegations of child sexual abuse were made; other dioceses were not warned of allegations when alleged perpetrators moved; and survivors were not offered timely or compassionate pastoral care and support.

The commission said that Bishop Herft had mishandled allegations of child sexual abuse made against a senior priest of the diocese. “His response was weak and ineffectual, and showed no regard for the need to protect children from the risk that they could be preyed upon,” the commission said. “It was a failure of leadership.”

Bishop Herft was Bishop of Newcastle from 1993 until 2005, when he became Archbishop of Perth. He resigned last year after the Royal Commission hearing on Newcastle diocese (News, 18 August).

Another former Bishop of Newcastle, the Rt Revd Alfred Holland, was also criticised by the Royal Commission for failure of leadership, while Bishop Herft’s successors, the retired Bishop Brian Farran and the current Bishop, the Rt Revd Greg Thompson, were praised for taking “appropriate action against perpetrators”.

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