Thursday, 8 April 2004

Sydney inquisition

The Diocese of Sydney made news in Australia recently because of the questionnaire that all candidates for ordination, or clergy seeking to become licensed in that diocese, are required to complete.
The Australian Priests forced to reveal sexual past
Sydney Morning Herald New priests to be quizzed over sexual history
ABC Radio Anglicans use questionnaire to weed out potential paedophiles
ABC Bishop stands by sex questionnaire

Today, the Church Times publishes further reports on this, at Sydney probes clergy sex-lives and also publishes the full text of the questionnaire itself. The text of the covering sheet entitled “Privacy Statement” is shown below.

I will have more to report on this topic soon.


The Archbishop’s office respects your privacy.

The Archbishop’s office is responsible for supporting the Archbishop in discharging his episcopal functions and also administers the diocesan Registry, Professional Standards Unit and diocesan Archives.

We usually collect personal information such as a person’s name, age, contact details, occupation and family details to discharge these functions but we may collect other personal information as well. We use this information for the proper administration of the Diocese including assessing ordination applicants, licensing clergy and lay people for ministry in the Diocese, administering professional standards within the Diocese and recording significant historical events in the diocesan archives. When we collect sensitive information, as defined in the Privacy Act, we will collect it with your consent when required to do so by law.
We may share your information with other entities who are members of the Anglican Church of Australia usually within but sometimes outside the Diocese of Sydney. We will handle such personal information in accordance with the standards set out in our Privacy Policy.

The Archbishop’s office may disclose your personal information to third party service providers, agents or contractors such from time to time to help us to provide our services. If we do this, we generally require those parties to protect your personal information in the same way we do.

We use a variety of physical and electronic security measures including restricting physical access to our offices and the use of firewalls and secure databases to keep personal information held on IT systems secure from misuse, loss or unauthorised use or disclosure.

Where appropriate, we will handle personal information relying on the small business exemption.
Generally, you can access personal information we hold about you. If we deny your request in some circumstances we will tell you why. Please contact the Registrar at Level 1, St Andrew’s House, Sydney Square, Sydney NSW 2000 or on 9265 1519 or at to ask for access to your personal information, if you have a complaint about the way we handle your personal information, or if you would like more information about our approach to privacy, other members of the Anglican Church of Australia or our third party service providers, agents or contractors.

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Jensen is a loon. If I was required to fill out a questionnaire like that, with such an inadequate privacy statement, I would lie. If the Bishop wants to know such things, he can ask them in person.

Posted by: Try at April 8, 2004 08:26 PM

“26. Is there any information from your past or present that may result in allegations being made against you of sexual conduct which would be regarded by right thinking members of the Church in this Diocese as disgraceful and inconsistent with the standards to be observed by a Christian?
Yes No

27. Have you been involved in a homosexual relationship?
Yes No

30. Do you view, read or listen to material, including but not limited to participating on internet chat rooms, which would be judged pornographic by right thinking members of the Church in this Diocese?
Yes No”

“Right thinking members”: are we to assume, that answering Question 27 in the affirmative would offend these delicate (not to mention judgmental) right (wing) thinkers?

[Better question: Regarding the “right thinking members of the Church in this Diocese” will Jesus say “Depart from me, ye accursed, I never knew you?”]

Posted by: J. Collins Fisher at April 12, 2004 06:58 AM

When it asks, “Is there any information from your past or present that may result in allegations being made against you of sexual conduct which would be regarded by right thinking members of the Church in this Diocese as disgraceful and inconsistent with the standards to be observed by a Christian?” the Diocese begs its own question. Exactly what are “right thinking” members of the Church supposed to be thinking?
The questionnaire then immediately asks “Have you been involved in a homosexual relationship?” apparently on the presumption that anyone approving this could not possibly be a “right thinking” member of the Church. A stated, worthy, aim of this process is to root out child-abuse. Time after time it has been shown that this is not related to sexual preference.
The Diocese’s sad error is to put a legalism ahead of good conscience and the work of the Holy Spirit. Christian duty is to teach the truth as best we understand it, allowing diversity where there is disagreement while standing fast against obvious evil. Asking written questions will not unearth child-abusers or anyone else with criminal intent, and we must rely on the conscience of people of good intent. This process will only deter, hurt and discriminate against people seeking to serve God in good conscience.

Posted by: Brian McKinlay at April 13, 2004 02:35 AM

Some of the proposed questions amount to examples of prurient interest in the private activities of individuals. In my opinion, the only legitimate questions are those which can be asked by an officer of the law in the case of suspicion that a law has been broken.
Private thoughts, actions, orientations, etc. are simply that. They are private. This kind of questioning is an indication that the questioner has a dirty mind, and is posing questions designed to satisfy an overactive pictorial imagination. No one in their right mind would consent to answer them. Remember the generally accepted analysis that if a person discusses personal sexual activity with another person of the same gender they are engaging in a homosexual activity(!). The basic right of personal privacy comes before the penetrating interogation by ‘power figures’ in the church or any other institution. Just refuse. Do not participate.
For the sake of discussion, let’s suppose that I did something which I repented of, expressed my sorrow for it, unburdened my concience of it and received absolution for it. Would disclosing this act or thought not violate the confidentiality of the sacrament of reconciliation? Or are we now to believe that the forgiveness and forgetfulness of God is no longer either complete or final? If God can forget our sins, cannot we also? Who are we to remember?
God help me. I hope I am ‘right thinking’. Why didn’t they tell me about this scrutiny before now? What is right thinking? Maybe Jesus knows. Where can I find a detailed explanation of this concept? I’ve looked in the NT, Knox, Calvin, Zwingli, Augustine, Origen, Ignatius, Cranmer,
Hooker, etc. etc. and they don’t agree. Please help! I’ll watch for your answer.

Posted by: (The Rev'd ) Robert Willingham at April 13, 2004 09:32 AM