Newcastle Anglican Bishop Brian Farran has revealed allegations that well-known priest Father Peter Rushton was a serial child sex abuser throughout his 40-year career in the Hunter.
Police are investigating whether Father Rushton, who died in 2007, was part of a broader paedophile ring involving other Anglican clergy.
His secrets emerged yesterday when the diocese conceded it suspected there were many more victims to come forward.
Father Rushton completed his training at St John’s Theological College in Morpeth and worked at Cessnock, Wyong, Weston, Wallsend, Lake Macquarie and Maitland.
Bishop Farran yesterday apologised publicly to Father Rushton’s victims and confirmed the late priest’s ‘‘involvement in the sexual abuse of minors’’.
He said the diocese was co-operating fully with police who are investigating the actions of Father Rushton and other clergy.
Bishop Farran said some of Father Rushton’s victims were now known to the church. He did not know how many others there might be and urged them to come forward.
The diocese started working with police after ‘‘significant allegations and information of concern’’ were raised following Father Rushton’s death.
Allegations include that he molested young boys who worked as servers during church services, or ‘‘arranged for it to happen’’, Bishop Farran said.
‘‘The diocesan director of professional standards has been investigating these matters and is fully co-operating with NSW Police.
‘‘The diocese has also been supporting persons who have come forward in relation to these matters.’’
Father Rushton worked in the diocese of Newcastle from 1963 until his death.
Bishop Farran first acknowledged the priest’s offending at a special service at St Luke’s parish, Wallsend, several months ago.
At another event last week, which some victims of clerical abuse refused to attend because Bishop Farran would also be there, he acknowledged that ‘‘for some I may be a symbol of hope, while for others I’m a symbol of shame and suffering’’.
During the Wallsend service Bishop Farran performed church rededication rites to recognise the crimes committed against children within the church building.
‘‘Most of the children were young servers who would have served the eucharist before experiencing these devastating events,’’ he said.
‘‘The memories for these people are so powerful. I was trying to break the strong negative associations between the building and what happened to them within it.’’
Bishop Farran said he was in tears at an event last week where victims of child sex abuse broke down while recounting the crimes committed against them.
‘‘It is extraordinary, the devastation that’s caused,’’ he said.
People with information about offences involving Anglican clergy are urged to contact the diocese’s professional standards director, Michael Elliott.