‘Everyone was groomed’: Anne Manne’s story of Newcastle’s paedophile priest network centres on a ‘kidnapped’ childhood

In 2017, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found that within the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle, priests had perpetuated crimes of abuse for at least 30 years. Serious allegations were mismanaged, misplaced or ignored. Crimes were minimised. “Abusive and predatory” behaviour was wrongly portrayed as “consensual”.

In her new book, Crimes of the Cross, journalist Anne Manne provides an intricate and compelling account of how multiple diocesan clergy and leaders covered up allegations, protected priests who were known perpetrators and failed to care for survivors.

Manne builds on the groundbreaking work of Newcastle Herald journalist Joanne McCarthy, whose investigations, starting in 2006, led to the establishment of the 2012 royal commission. Manne’s writing is informed by a variety of source materials, including interviews with McCarthy and various survivors, and evidence from the royal commission.

At least six priests associated with the diocese and one lay reader have been convicted of child sex offending. Other priests were identified as “prolific” abusers, but not convicted in their lifetime.

At the centre of the story, Manne states, there is “the denial of what ‘ostensibly good men’ do”.

A pivotal chapter, titled “The Wolf Hiding in Plain Sight”, uncovers the criminal activities of one of these “ostensibly good” men.

In late 2009, Manne tells us, Lawrence – by now the dean of the cathedral – was reported for sexual misconduct with an underage boy (in the early 1980s) to Michael Elliot, an ex-policeman who had been hired by the diocese to deal with sexual abuse complaints.

Lawrence, a powerful, controlling figure, had shaped diocesan culture and “groomed a whole city” for decades.

In the balance of power, everything was in the favour of powerful men like Lawrence and Parker. Children, who had nothing, were silenced, ignored and shamed.

Source: ‘Everyone was groomed’: Anne Manne’s story of Newcastle’s paedophile priest network centres on a ‘kidnapped’ childhood

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