Sunday, May 18, 2008

Pedophile priest cut from kids' choir

A CONVICTED pedophile priest found singing in a church choir with children three months after he was released from jail has been directed to stand down by his diocese.

The move is a backflip by the Anglican Church, which stood behind a decision earlier in the year to allow Robert Francis Sharwood to sing with children in the Holy Trinity Church choir at Fortitude Valley.

Sharwood was jailed for 12 months in November 2006 after being found guilty of sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy in Brisbane more than 30 years ago.

The Courier-Mail revealed in February he was singing alongside children in his parish's choir with the permission of the congregation - although some parents were unaware of the priest's past.

In March, Brisbane's Anglican Dean Bishop John Parkes told The Courier-Mail pedophile priests could not be stopped from interacting with children as part of the congregation, nor from participating in church duties open to any lay person - such as singing in a choir, Bible readings or being part of the cleaning roster.

But an Anglican Church spokesman said the Brisbane diocese had now altered that stance.

"We have instructed that he not be in the choir and we believe that is the case," the spokesman said.

He said the church had also signed off on a pedophile reintegration program that was the centre of a six-month dispute between Holy Trinity and its professional standards board.

Holy Trinity's rector, Trevor Bulled, who was convicted for indecent behaviour at a public toilet about 20 years ago, had said in January the program was "unworkable and oppressive".

Father Bulled also questioned the need for a rehabilitation program for Sharwood.

The Anglican spokesman said it had taken "some time" to get Holy Trinity to approve the reintegration program.

"We have been in discussion, obviously, since that time and a number of parishioners have agreed to take part in the monitoring," the spokesman said.

Sharwood is at present appealing a recommendation by the Brisbane diocese's professional standards board to strip him of his holy orders.

While he has been unable to practise as a priest since being convicted of sexually abusing a child, he has not had the title of priest taken from him.

The Anglican Church, dogged by controversy over the case, is now looking at new provisions that would see pedophile priests defrocked immediately after being convicted of child-sex offences.

At present, Anglican priests charged with child sex offences are immediately stood down from their position and their licence suspended to stop them from performing ministerial duties.


Latest Posts

Latest Comments