A ‘‘REVERED’’ Anglican priest, the Reverend Michael Cooper, enticed children with alcohol and drugs and sexually abused them, stunned parishioners at three Hunter parishes were told on Thursday as part of Newcastle Anglican diocese’s ‘‘journey of facing the past’’.
Newcastle Bishop Greg Thompson named the late Mr Cooper as a predator of children and warned that he would not be the last to be named.
‘‘This will be the start of a number of statements about clergy, mostly deceased, where we have received and verified information,’’ the Bishop said.
Parishioners at Rutherford, East Maitland and Cessnock were told on Thursday that Mr Cooper, described by Bishop Thompson as a ‘‘revered’’ Anglican priest, had a ‘‘double life involving serious crimes against children’’.
‘‘People will find it hard to believe and to understand, that someone they have known as a caring person could also be a predator.
‘‘People can be very angry but this is part of the process, beginning to see the world through the eyes of the survivors of abuse.’’
Allegations of abuse by Mr Cooper were raised with the diocese after Bishop Thompson’s extraordinary apology to the community in June, in which he said up to 30 perpetrators over four decades molested children – including the children of priests.
‘‘They had sex with children as if that was part of the role,’’ he said inan interview after the apology.
The diocese has handed over tens of thousands of documents to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and a public hearing into historical abuse allegations in Newcastle and the Hunter is expected to be held in 2016.
Bishop Thompson said Mr Cooper, who died in 2007, served in East Maitland, Telarah/Rutherford, Mount Vincent/Weston, Cessnock/Wollombi, Hamilton and Waratah.
Mr Cooper was a friend of another Anglican priest, Peter Rushton, who has also been named as a sexual abuser of children.
In his apology in June, Bishop Thompson issued a warning that ‘‘We can’t have mates looking after mates any more’’, after evidence that files were removed in the past, and clergy who were the subject of allegations were also responsible for dealing with allegations against other clergy.
‘‘When we began the journey of facing the past and shaping a healthy future in June, I alerted the diocese and the community to the fact that more allegations of misconduct and wrongdoing may emerge,’’ Bishop Thompson said.
‘‘I am grateful to those who have had the courage to come forward and I continue to encourage people to do so. I hope they will be able to speak to us and find some support,’’ he said.
Bishop Thompson encouraged people with allegations to speak to police, the diocese’s professional standards director or the royal commission.
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