The Bishop of Grafton Sarah Macneil with sexual abuse survivor Beth Heinrich and friends Peter and Nanette Stacey after the bishop's apology to Ms Heinrich in Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday.
The Bishop of Grafton Sarah Macneil with sexual abuse survivor Beth Heinrich and friends Peter and Nanette Stacey after the bishop's apology to Ms Heinrich in Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday. Tim Howard

Bishop’s apology to sex abuse victim rights ‘ancient wrong’

THE Bishop of Grafton Sarah Macneil has described her apology to a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a predecessor as an "attempt to right an ancient wrong".

Rev Macneil apologised to Beth Heinrich, during her sermon at the 8am service in Christ Church Cathedral this morning.

The Bishop of Grafton from 1975 to 1983, Donald Shearman, began abusing Ms Heinrich as a teenager in the 1950s and maintained that abuse for another 40 years. Shearman and his wife, Fay, were wardens of St John's Hostel in Forbes

The church has acknowledged Ms Heinrich was a victim of abuse and deposed Shearman from holy orders in 2004.

Bishop Sarah acknowledged that Ms Heinrich had been an innocent party who had been enticed into a relationship by an adult man who had a duty of care towards her and was in a position of power over her.

"Mr Shearman's behaviour was utterly reprehensible and has had enormous consequences in Ms Heinrich's life," Bishop Sarah said.

"At the time the abuse was revealed there were some people who blamed Ms Heinrich.

"So often it is the victims who are blamed and, unfortunately, this has happened in this case too. This is completely unacceptable.

"I would like here, publicly, on behalf of the Diocese to apologise to Ms Heinrich for the distress that comments of blame have caused her.

"I apologise for the length of time it has taken the Diocese to acknowledge that she was a victim in this matter.

"It seemed to her that for many, many years no one in the diocesan leadership wanted to hear her side of the story. I apologise to her also for that failure."


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