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Archbishops’ chaplain behind bars at last

By Amanda Gearing - posted Wednesday, 29 April 2009


The sentencing of a self-confessed child sex offender and senior Brisbane Anglican priest Canon Barry Greaves in Brisbane District Court last Friday (April 24, 2009) is a significant event for many reasons and for many people.

It is a significant event because Greaves was a priest at Boonah in the early 1980s when he committed the offences and because knowledge of his own sex offending against children failed to deter him from seeking and gaining high office in the Anglican Church.

He accepted the position of being an Archbishop’s chaplain to Brisbane Archbishop Dr Peter Hollingworth in 1999. He stayed on as an Archbishop’s chaplain to the incoming Archbishop Dr Phillip Aspinall in 2002 and not even the disgrace of the sex scandal in the Brisbane Diocese resulted in a glimmer of guilt that maybe he was not an appropriate person to be providing pastoral care to other victims of sexual assault.

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Families of victims who were referred to Greaves for pastoral care are now flabbergasted by the double betrayal. “I went looking for comfort and now I discover I was confiding in a f***ing pedophile,” one woman said.

The depth of betrayal she and others feel now that Greaves has pleaded guilty to nine sex offences against children is obviously profound. If victims wanted to regain trust in the clergy when they sought help from Greaves, the chances of them having any confidence to try again after a second betrayal are pretty slim.

Greaves’ career in the church took him from St Francis College to ordination in 1962, curacies at All Saints Chermside and Christ Church Bundaberg, chaplain of St John’s College at the University of Queensland, five years in the Bush Brotherhood of St Paul, headmaster at St Barnabas School in Ravenshoe in North Queensland, rector of All Saints Chermside and then rector of Christ Church Boonah (where he now admits offending against three altar boys in the early 1980s).

Unsurprisingly, most of these roles provided Greaves with trusted access to children.

During his time at Boonah, despite his criminal offences, Greaves accepted promotion to the position of regional dean of Ipswich, then residentiary canon at St John’s Cathedral, rector at St Francis Nundah, area dean of Brisbane North East and finally Archbishop’s chaplain from 1999 to 2003. He was awarded a life-time canonisation in 2003 with the title Canon Emeritus and permission to act as a priest after he retired in 2003.

As well as seeking positions of power in the Diocese, Greaves also sought high office in the national Synod, the national governing body of the Anglican Church in Australia.

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A farewell motion at Synod in 2001 was presented by Archbishop Ian George (who was subsequently disgraced as Archbishop of Adelaide for his mishandling of child abuse cases ) thanking Greaves for his faithful service to the Synod, his unstinting commitment to excellence and the best interests of the Synod; his service as Clerical Secretary of General Synod since 1989, his industry and his meticulous exercise of that role; and his extraordinary knowledge of the legislation and procedures of the Synod, and his generous and gracious advice to many of its members over the years.

For such a senior cleric to respond as he has, to the allegations in 2004 when his victims finally reported to police, and which Greaves knew to be true, adds further to his discredit. His response has been less than pious and not at all humble.

Greaves' behaviour through the criminal justice system has added enormously to the struggle of his victims in pursuing justice. Greaves forced his victims to endure a police investigation, giving evidence in a committal hearing, a process which caused at least one of them to have nightmares for a year following his harrowing re-living of the depravity forced on him by Greaves. The ongoing impact on this victim, now a man aged in his 40s, is indeed dire.

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About the Author

Dr Amanda Gearing graduated with a Masters' Degree from QUT in 2012 and a PhD in Global investigative journalism in 2016. Amanda was The Courier-Mail's reporter in Toowoomba for ten years until 2007 and received several awards for her work including Best news Report (All Media) in 2002. She has written in Australia and the UK for national and state newspapers and has produced documentaries for ABC Radio National. In 2012 she won a Walkley Award for Best radio documentary for The day that changed Grantham. She also won a Clarion Award for her radio documentary A living sacrifice in 2013. Her non-fiction book The Torrent was published in 2012 and an updated edition will be published in February 2017.

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