Victims of institutional child abuse are not just physically abused by their abusers.
They are emotionally abused.
Their very trust in institutions is abused.
These victims suffer from the abusive action of a network of paedophile enablers.
Whilst not directly responsible for the acts, enablers of these horrendous crimes are in a position of power. They could’ve stopped the offenders. Their actions have led to devastating consequences for the victims, and turning a blind eye has led to the abuse of thousands of vulnerable children.
Roger Herft is one example of this passive abuse.
Herft withheld information from police regarding serial paedophile and Dean of Newcastle, Graeme Lawrence
Roger Herft was a prominent leader in the Anglican Church, acting as Archbishop of Perth since 2005 and had previously held the position of Bishop in the Newcastle Diocese between 1993 and 2005.
Alarmingly, an individual with the power and responsibility of Herft showed little concern over the wellbeing of vulnerable children who were exposed to the insidious culture of abuse within his diocese.
The Royal Commission found that Herft had failed to act as a leader of the organisation to prevent abuse from occurring when his immediate intervention was of absolute necessity. By turning a blind eye, he demonstrated a lack of human decency and a disregard for the well-being of innocent children.
During Royal Commission hearings in 2016, Herft conceded he had withheld crucial evidence from police regarding the actions of former Dean of Newcastle, Graeme Lawrence.
Further admissions regarding “incorrect evidence” came to light when Herft was asked about the extent of his knowledge regarding Lawrence’s predatory crimes.
Herft’s own admission to the Royal Commission hearing summed up what can only be described as an abject failure to the children involved and to a wider community who put their trust and faith in him.
“I have… let them down badly, let down survivors in ways that remorse itself is a very poor emotion to even express.”
In cases like this, it is difficult to understand how such reprehensible behaviour was allowed to fester in the shadows, with trusted leaders acting as enablers of these monsters. When the reputation of the Church and its constituents is placed above the safety of children subjected to sexual abuse, gross injustice occurred.
Herft tendered his resignation from the Church effective July 7th 2017 and it was been reported that he was to receive a church-funded pension in retirement.
2021 UPDATE: Herft defrocked for failing to deal with child sexual abuse allegations in NSW
In December 2021, Roger Herft was defrocked following an internal inquiry by the Episcopal Standards Board of the Anglican Church. It was found that he had failed to address child sexual abuse claims against priests under his watch when he was the Bishop of Newcastle.
Based on findings from the Royal Commission, the Board determined that Herft was no longer fit for Holy Orders. This means that he will no longer be recognised as an ordained member of the Anglican Church.
In a statement from the Board’s Primate, Geoffrey Smith, the Anglican Church said they were committed to the safety of children and vulnerable people in its care.
“Anglicans were shocked and dismayed at the unfolding in the Royal Commission of the scope of our failure to tackle child sexual abuse within the Church and the depth of survivors’ pain and suffering,” Mr Smith said.
“We are deeply ashamed of the many ways in which we let down survivors, both in the way we have acted and the way we failed to act.”
“The Commission found that Mr Herft had failed to deal appropriately with some allegations of child sexual abuse while he was bishop of Newcastle. There is no suggestion, and there has been no allegation, that Mr Herft himself personally participated in such behaviour. The Board has examined the extent to which he discharged his responsibility as bishop.”
The Board determined that the consequences of allegations going unchecked for years at a time would have had a profound impact on the victims. They claimed, “There was always a straightforward medium of reporting allegations of serious criminal conduct to the police”.
“The respondent did not do so when the position of authority he held demanded that of him. We have looked for any acceptable explanation for why he did not do so and have not found any.”
Since Herft’s retirement in 2017, he has received a hefty pension from the Anglican Church. Now, Herft will lose everything — his church pension, his status and his community. He will live out his retirement in disgrace.
Feature Image: Perth Now