AN Anglican priest who spoke out against serial paedophile priest Peter Rushton told the royal commission the process had taken a huge toll on him.
He has also told of hearing that Rushton had been with two vice squad detectives joking about which boys they would take to their tents that night after a scouting trip to the Williams River, in the Hunter Valley.
This anecdote – which came from a church member – marks a potential wider link to paedophile activity outside of the church.
Reverend Roger Dyer told the commission’s pre-lunch hearing he was the priest at St Luke’s Wallsend from 2006 to 2010, following Rushton into the parish.
Having worked in parishes that had been damaged by paedophilia, he said “the signs are the way the men relate to you and I just had a really, really bad feeling”.
He said he arrived at St Luke’s expecting a congregation of 100 to 110, but the books had been falsified and the real congregation was down to 30 or 40.
He soon learned there were difficulties at the parish but did not know the church had dealt with Rushton by promoting him from St Luke’s to become Archdeacon of Maitland.
Father Dyer said once people began to trust him at the church, the stories flowed.
He was told about a family “absolutely destroyed by Rushton” where the three children were turned against each other after one alleged Rushton had interfered with him.
He said Rushton was rumoured to have sent love letters to children who were servers or being prepared as servers.
He said he was told about a Wallsend scouts trip to the Williams River area where “Rushton and two vice squad detectives had laughed and joked as the boys were nude swimming as to who they would have in their tents that night”.
He said the man who told him “lives in fear of the police in Newcastle if he ever spoke out”.
He said he had made Bishop Brian Farran aware of the allegations against Rushton from as early as March 2008, although he had come from a difficult period in the Murray Diocese and did not particularly want to get in another “bun-fight with a bishop”.
He said Bishop Farran conducted a healing service at St Luke’s but he was unhappy that Rushton was not mentioned specifically.
Father Dyer said he was also falsely accused of abusing someone at a Wallsend aged care centre and although he was cleared by this through Michael Elliott of the church’s Professional Standards board, he felt he was never properly cleared by Bishop Farran.
He said he was pressured to leave the diocese and to cease work as a priest and it took a toll.
PAM Wilson was a Wallsend parishioner in the 1970s who believed Father Peter Rushton was “a good man”.
Then she had a conversation with a priest and his wife about what Rushton had done to their young son, and how the mother found her little boy curled up on a bed and distraught.
Mrs Wilson told the royal commission how the couple told her about raising the allegations with Bishop Alfred Holland.
"They told me Bishop Holland didn't believe them. Bishop Holland said it was lies and Rushton would never do a thing like that. I was horrified when I heard this,” Mrs Wilson said.
“I thought bishops shouldn't be like that. I spoke to them a few times over the next few months and I decided to write a letter to Bishop Holland."
Mrs Wilson said she received a phone call from Peter Rushton who threatened her about writing to the bishop. He told her to “destroy it immediately because if you don’t you’ll get a solicitor’s letter sent to you quicker than you can turn around”.
In 1981 Ms Wilson moved to Waratah parish and got to know a priest who knew Rushton well. One day he said: “You think Rushton is a homosexual don’t you?”
When she said yes, the priest said “You’re wrong, he’s a pedophile”.
Mrs Wilson said reading about the church’s acknowledgement that Rushton was a child sex offender in a Newcastle Herald article in October, 2010, “Made headlines for Anglicans”. She reported her previous experiences to senior people in the diocese after seeing the article.
Mrs Wilson said she left the parish where Rushton had worked.
- Joanne McCarthy
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