Anglicans Propose Adding Adulterers to Sex Offenders List

( [email protected] ) Oct 26, 2007 12:22 PM EDT

Anglicans in Australia are enforcing a stricter code of conduct with a proposal for its national church database of child abusers to include ministers accused of extra-marital affairs.

The proposed register is part of the Australian Anglican Church's attempt to keep churches safe by taking a firm stance against sexual misconduct, including child abuses.

Critics say marital infidelity should not be included alongside child abuse in the register, according to The Associated Press.

But Philip Gerber, the professional standards director of the Sydney diocese, said potential ministers and church workers should be held to a higher moral code than other members of the community.

"The church has always had a high expectation, a scriptural expectation, that members of the clergy and church workers lead moral lives," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

Although marital infidelity among clergy is rare, Gerber said it does happen.

"Often people that come in touch with clergy are vulnerable because they're in a pastoral situation and the minister is, in a sense, in a position of power," he said. "We just want to make sure that whenever people come in touch with the church they are safe."

The register will be based on complaints, according to Gerber, and include accused church workers even if those accusations of sexual abuse are unproven. Only if the accused is completely cleared of the allegation will the minister or church worker's name come off the list.

"We are not going to set up a bureau of investigation," said Gerber “But obviously when these sorts of things happen … the person concerned or people that know of the facts … can be concerned and they come forward and make a complaint. So it's based on complaints.”

Dr. Muriel Porter, a lay member of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia – which is meeting this week in the nation's capital, Canberra – fears including extra-marital affairs in the register could downplay the "really serious issues."

"The serious issues are very important … [and we] must deal with them properly, but we're getting to the point where people for, almost for winking at somebody, could end up being on a register and I think that's quite serious," said Porter, according to Australia's ABC News.

If the proposed database is approved, officials said the database could be set up by March.