Priests defrocked over sex abuse charges

Sept. 10, 2012 at 11:15 AM

NEWCASTLE, Australia, Sept. 10 (UPI) -- Three Australian priests, including one in the upper echelons of the church, have been defrocked over allegations they sexually abused children.

Newcastle Anglican Bishop Brian Farran acted on a recommendation by the Anglican Professional Standards Board, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported Monday.

The former dean of Newcastle, Graeme Lawrence, was among those defrocked. The others were the Revs. Bruce Hoare and Andrew Duncan.

A fourth priest, the Rev. Graeme Sturt, was barred from exercising any ministerial duties for five years.

A former church worker was prohibited from holding any future lay offices.

The priests have denied the allegations. None of the five men presented any evidence at the professional standards hearing.

Police are investigating the charges.

Former Newcastle Mayor John McNaughton, a lay assistant with the church for 60 years, said he supports Lawrence, the defrocked former dean.

"I think they can't make a priest not a priest, and the people who look to Father Graeme Lawrence for their counseling and religious instruction and so on will continue to do so, myself included."

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