Church `covered up' sex assaults
Kevin Meade. The Australian. Canberra, A.C.T.:Nov 1, 2006. p. 5
THE father of a teenage boy who was sexually molested by an Anglican priest
complained to church authorities in 1976, but the pedophile was forgiven and
later employed at Brisbane's prestigious "Churchie" school, where he taught
Details of the church cover-up emerged in the Brisbane District Court yesterday
after the priest, Robert Francis Sharwood, pleaded guilty to seven charges of
indecently assaulting the boy, who was 13 when the two-year sexual molestation
The court heard that when the victim, now 46, complained to the police in 2003,
he was influenced by the revelations of the Toowoomba sex abuse trial that led
to the resignation of former Anglican archbishop of Brisbane Peter Hollingworth
as governor- general.
Sharwood, 62, pleaded not guilty yesterday to five other charges including
sodomy, gross indecency and indecent assault. His trial on those charges began
yesterday. Prosecutor Ron Swanwick said Sharwood and his victim, now a
university lecturer, had hundreds of sexual encounters between 1974 and 1976.
They kept in touch after their sexual affair ended and later attended each
The victim attended Sharwood's wedding in Sydney as a groomsman in 1977.
Sharwood returned the favour in 1982, officiating as assistant priest at the
But while on the surface they maintained a friendly relationship and exchanged
Christmas cards until 2000, the sexual assaults of the victim's teen years
continued to play on his mind until he finally poured out details of the
offences to his wife and police.
Sharwood was the assistant curate at Sherwood parish in Brisbane's western
suburbs when he befriended the boy's family in January 1974. Mr Swanwick said
the offences to which Sharwood had pleaded guilty -- involving kissing,
fondling, oral sex and masturbation -- took place in the victim's bedroom, at
Sharwood's home, in the parish car and on a rug during a picnic he took the boy
to near a creek in rural Samford, northwest of Brisbane.
The charges that Sharwood is contesting include allegations he engaged in anal
sex with his victim at a church rectory.
In 1977, after Sharwood moved to Sydney, the boy's father intercepted a letter
from the priest to the boy that clearly showed the two had been in a sexual
The father showed the letter to Sherwood rector Tom Hood, and Sharwood was
summoned from Sydney to explain himself.
Sharwood was questioned by Bishop Ralph Wicks of Brisbane's western region and
another cleric, James Warner. Mr Swanwick said Wicks and Warner -- both now
dead -- counselled Sharwood, and allowed him to remain in the church.
The trial continues.
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