Shocking catalogue of child rape by Anglican clergy unfolds in Australia

An abuse victim holds a placard outside the venue for Australia's Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse in Sydney, Australia, in a picture taken earlier this year. Today's hearing concerned the Anglican diocese of Newcastle.Reuters

A devastating story of mass child rape perpetrated by an Anglican paedophile ring is unfolding in the latest hearing of Australia's Royal Commission into child sexual abuse.

The first day of the two-week sessions heard of the crimes perpetrated by Rev Peter Rushton, an Anglican priest who was Archdeacon of Maitland and who died in 2007.

His catalogue of child rape and abuse was finally exposed by an ABC investigation. He led a paedophile ring involving other clergy and lay people from the Newcastle diocese over as many as four decades.

Rushton's godson, Paul Gray, told how he was taken to St Alban's School for Boys in Hunter Valley. This was the 1960s, and boys would be anally and orally raped by groups of men in a locked room called the "f***ing room", according to Daily Mail Australia.

Gray, who was first raped by Rushton when he was just ten years old, wept in the witness box as he testified to being abused alone and in groups of boys, in the boys' school and on church camps. Rushton would even use a knife to cut his back and then smear his body with the blood which he said was "symbolic of the blood of Christ", the Mail said.

The two week hearing at Newcastle Courthouse is looking into the experiences of survivors of child sexual abuse perpetrated by clergy and lay people involved in or associated with the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle.

The commission says allegations are being made against clergy and lay people associated with the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle. As well as Rushton they include Graeme Lawrence, Gregory Goyette, Andrew Duncan, Bruce Hoare, Graeme Sturt, Ian Barrack, Rushton's reported boyfriend James Michael Brown and another Anglican priest.

Some of these men have already been defrocked.

Brown is currently serving 20 years in prison for 103 sex offences against boys.

He was originally sentenced to ten years but when he appealed, the court doubled his sentence, Mary Ann Mueller reported for Virtue Online. The current bishop, Greg Thompson, is expected to tell the commission that he himself was molested as a boy by two Anglican clergy, including his own bishop.

He has made a formal apology to the victims of sexual abuse on behalf of the dioceses. He has also said there will be "no accommodation" to perpetrators. In a video, he admits that some people will find the evidence presented to the commission hard to believe and that it will make them very angry.

A full list of witnesses has been published by the commission and also includes other current and former senior clergy of the diocese.

Barrister Naomi Sharp, advising the commission, said the diocesan professional standards Michael Elliott, was among those who would give evidence, Guardian Australia reported. She said Elliott is expected to say he believes the diocese is harbouring a large number of active offenders with little or no accountability in place.

Lyn Wickham, a member of Cardiff parish in Newcastle and also of the diocesan council, says in a video on the diocesan website that the next two weeks will be a "challenging time" for everyone in the diocese. "Many people will be shocked by what they hear and read," she says. It is essential to work together to shape a healthy future, but also to face the past, she says.