Former Grafton Anglican Deacon Pat Comben has been reinstated to the church's Holy Orders.
Former Grafton Anglican Deacon Pat Comben has been reinstated to the church's Holy Orders. QUENTIN JONES

Controversial clergy back in Holy Orders

A FORMER defrocked Deacon of Grafton says the Anglican Church appears to have learned little from the traumas of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Former Queensland Education Minister and Grafton City Councillor Pat Comben has been returned to Holy Orders, despite an admission of guilt to the offences that saw him defrocked as the Deacon of Grafton in July 2015.

The Royal Commission found the Diocese of Grafton had denied responsibility for sexual abuse, denied compensation to victims of abuse at its North Coast Children's Home, failed to comply with its own policies and dealt with victims insensitively.

Mr Comben admitted that he as deacon had taken a legalistic approach to victims which is now seen to be in error. But Mr Comben, 67, said the church was now dealing with him in the same legalistic fashion.

He said when he learned former Bishop of Grafton, Keith Slater, had appealed against his defrocking and been successful because due process had not been followed, he realised the same rules could apply to him.

"I wrote them a letter asking what this meant to me and for three months I heard nothing from them," he said.

"The pity of it to me is the church is still failing to look after human needs, preferring to look after itself.

"We need to respond quicker to human needs - whether they're from someone as flawed as me, or innocent as children - much quicker as guided by God."

Mr Comben said even when the church responded to his letter, he was not sure what it meant.

"The first I knew that they had received anything was a message that said I had been removed from 'the register'.

He said this referred to a sex offenders' register both he and Bishop Slater had been placed on after they appeared at the Royal Commission.

"That was my only disappointment from this process as there was no suggestion our failings were of a sexual nature, but were purely administrative," he said.

"But I was wondering what this meant about my reinstatement."

Mr Comben said there was no exoneration or comfort to be gained from the restoration to Holy Orders.

"I will continue to be an active member of the Anglican Church, but I doubt it will ever offer me a role in a paid or honorary role," he said.

"I have been held to have failed in my role and I accept that."

The Daily Examiner asked for a response from the Anglican Diocese of Grafton, but it had not arrived by deadline.

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