7 May 2016

Priest's affairs "comfort" after assault by man

6:32 pm on 7 May 2016

The Anglican church is justifying its decision to stand down a senior priest over two affairs he had 25 years ago.

Reverend Michael Godfrey, 56, said he was sexually assaulted just days before the affairs, which were a misguided attempt to find comfort after the attack.

Reverend Michael Godfrey

Reverend Michael Godfrey Photo: Facebook

The highly-ranked priest said he had two separate extramarital affairs during a 10-day period while working in Australia in 1991. He was assaulted by a man just 10 days before the first affair.

In a statement, the Anglican Church said Reverend Michael Godfrey was removed from his position as Dean of Waiapu Cathedral for a historic matter that - while not illegal - breached the church's rules.

Dr Godfrey, 56, thinks the church made the wrong decision, but the church said he had been removed because his affairs breached church rules and were not reported to the right people at the time.

A spokesperson said his Bishop only found out about the affairs this year, and the Bishop had spent several months carefully investigating the breach in accordance with church rules, with advice from the diocese's senior legal advisor.

Dr Godfrey had the opportunity to challenge the determination, which was to deprive him of his holy orders, the spokesperson said.

He can start the process of re-integration in a year at the end of the stand-down period.

Dr Godfrey said earlier the sexual assault left him traumatised and that his marriage was not strong at the time and he did not know where to turn.

Dr Godfrey has since divorced and remarried.

"It's a historic thing. I did the wrong thing. There is no question about that. In traditional terms, I committed adultery. I've never denied that. There is no excuse for it and I don't pretend that," he said.

He said it wasn't a long-term affair and it was between consenting adults, during a "very low point" in his first marriage.

"But it's come to light again. Twenty-five years, it a long time to revisit these sort of things."

Dr Godfrey said he had gone through a traumatic event and was in "big trouble psychologically" before the affairs.

Waiapu Cathedral in Napier

Waiapu Cathedral in Napier Photo: Facebook

When he moved to New Zealand shortly after, he told his immediate superior, who gave him a "thorough bollocking" and asked him to get counselling.

Dr Godfrey said the matter arose during the Australian Royal Commission into church sex abuse, but was dismissed by them as immoral but not illegal.

He did not believe the church had given him a proper hearing.

"I understand a bishop, my boss, is not going to condone adultery, but on the other hand, I'm not sure if a whole lot of factors that should be taken into account have really been heard.

"I know the bishop has a job to do, but I'm not sure this is quite the way to handle it."

Dr Godfrey said he did not think the judgement fitted the "crime or the time that has lapsed since".

He was considering his options and if he would appeal.

Dr Godfrey said his faith was not shaken as a result.

"I've always believed in my God who is with us in the rough times and this is a rough time for me and my wife. And my first wife as well because she'll get possibly dragged back into this again," he said.

He is going to Australia where he said he would spend some time thinking about his future in the church.