A "network of sexual perpetrators" used an Anglican church youth group to prey on young boys over a period of decades from the 1970s to the 1990s with church leaders failing to report allegations, a royal commission has found.
In a scathing assessment of Anglican authorities, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found leaders, including former Brisbane archbishop and governor-general Peter Hollingworth, failed to protect children.
The report into Anglican youth group, the Church of England Boys' Society, and the Dioceses of Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Tasmania, comes a year after a public inquiry heard harrowing accounts of abuse by clergy and lay people.
The commissioners found the Church of England Boys' Society (CEBS), which still operates in parts of Australia under the name the Anglican Boys' Society and Boys' Ministry Australia, provided a number of paedophiles with easy access to children between the 1970s and 1990s.
"Most CEBS branches could operate in an autonomous and unregulated way and that the abuse often occurred on camps, sailing and fishing trips as well as overnight stays at rectories and private residences," the report found.
"As a result a culture developed in which perpetrators had easy access to boys and opportunities to sexually abuse those boys.
"There were networks of sexual perpetrators at CEBS who had knowledge of each other's sexual offending against boys and in some instances facilitated the sexual abuse of children."
The inquiry heard there were links between a number of men associated with the youth group, who were later convicted of sexual offences against children.
"A number of survivors gave evidence to the royal commission that they believed they were either shared by their abusers or that there was awareness between their abusers of each other's conduct," the report found.
Systemic problems identified by the commissioners include the minimisation of alleged offending with one victim being told by his parish priest to "let sleeping dogs lie" and "not proceed" with a complaint against a CEBS leader.
The commissioners found allegations were not "reported to the police either at all or in a timely way" and there was a "focus on protecting the reputation of the church, dioceses, CEBS and individual clergy".
Peter Hollingworth was criticised in the report for allowing a priest who was the subject of abuse allegations to continue in the ministry.
"We are satisfied that Dr Hollingworth's decision to permit Elliot to continue in the ministry was a serious error of judgment which focused overly on Elliot's needs to the exclusion . . . of the need to protect children more generally," the report found.
A separate hearing into Catholic church authorities was told insufficient work is being done to ensure the high proportion of foreign priests in Australia do not pose a risk to children.
The commission has heard about 40 per cent of Catholic priests in Australian ministry are born overseas.
"The countries from which they come have a very different view about the rights of children and yet they are appearing in parishes everywhere," Commissioner Robert Fitzgerald said.
Diocese of Broken Bay vicar general Dr David Ranson responded: "I certainly would not have confidence that the church nationally has sought to address this very issue."
The inquiry into the selection and training of Catholic priests heard screening processes have been inadequate in the past.
"They were ordaining them without knowing what they were really like," former priest and District Court judge Chris Geraghty said. "They were ordaining the wrong people. They took everybody and anybody."
A psychologist specialising in clerical sexual offending, Gerardine Robinson, told the inquiry assessments of potential priests should be done by an external panel of experts rather than in-house.
The hearing before Justice Peter McClellan continues.
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