Sex-abuse bishop defrocked

A former Anglican bishop who seduced a schoolgirl 50 years ago on Wednesday become the first churchman in Australia ever to be defrocked.

Donald Shearman, 77, had sex with the girl regularly when he was a boarding house master and she a boarder in his care between 1954 and 1956.

Brisbane Archbishop Phillip Aspinall stripped Shearman of his holy orders in a public ceremony in St John's Cathedral. Shearman did not attend.

"I think it reflects the seriousness with which the church views sexual abuse," Aspinal said. "I think the church has turned a corner in the last few years and is dealing with these matters in a much more open way than heretofore."

Statutory rape

Aspinall's predecessor, Peter Hollingworth, was forced to resign as governor-general last year after he maintained on national television that the woman at the centre of the scandal had seduced the minister when she was 14-years-old and he was 29.

Hollingworth promoted Shearman to bishop despite his knowledge that statutory rape had occurred. After the woman sought redress from the Anglican Church for her treatment while in the care of Shearman, Hollingworth wrote to her complaining that her allegations had caused distress to Bishop Shearman and his wife.

Hollingworth, handpicked by Prime Minister John Howard to be Queen Elizabeth's representative in Australia, drew the contempt of the general public for his stance on child abuse by serving clergy.

Hollingworth was forced out of an office that is tantamount to head of state. He was not in St John's Cathedral to witness the defrocking of his former employee.

The woman wronged by Shearman, who requested anonymity, did attend and spoke to reporters after the ceremony.

Now 65, she said: "I am really very sad and very sorry that it has come to this. But I have persisted for all this time because I don't want any child or vulnerable adult to have to suffer the way I have. I think it's time for the church to learn to put victims first and not to cover up for the perpetrators who may be their friends".