Saturday, July 12, 2008


ABC News reports:

A Leederville-based religious community will close after its leader was forced to step down amid sexual misconduct allegations.

The Leader of the Bethel Covenant Community, Kevin Horgan, resigned earlier this year over allegations he had groped the breast of some female members.

An article on this community at Catholica Australia (it's a bit slow to load) tells us:

The Bethel Covenant Community grew out of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement in the 1970s. It eventually established itself in the Perth Suburb of West Leederville as a Covenant Community with some form of canonical approval (i.e. official Church approval) in the 1980s under the previous Archbishop of Perth, the Most Rev William Foley....

In early April this year allegations of sexual impropriety, financial irregularities and disquiet over "cult-like activities" first began to reach more public attention through the complaints of existing and former members of the community. ...

There have been a number of forced resignations of leaders of the community in recent months culminating in the resignation or retirement of the founding leaders of the community, Mr Kevin Horgan and Mr Frank Carr. Allegations have been raised on the website of a tardy response by the Church authorities when the allegations were first raised privately with them. ...

The matter will be difficult and sensitive for Perth's present Catholic Archbishop, Barry Hickey, as the man at the centre of the allegations, the founder of the Bethel Community and its leader for so many years, Mr Kevin Horgan, is a member of a prominent Catholic family in Western Australia which was previously connected with the financial embarrassment the Catholic Church in Perth experienced in the early 1990s. ...

Vox reports on the abuses at Bethel which have included:

- The abusive personality of community leader Kevin Horgan

- A desire on the part of Horgan and his assistant Frank Carr to create an empire with a comfortable lifestyle for themselves

- Horgan posed as a Psychologist when he had only a BA in Human Development

- The community was elitist, arrogant and closed. It quickly fell out of favor with the Renewal movement.

Perhaps the most damaging information offered by VOX, however, is the following:

In 2007, personal accounts alleging sexual impropriety by Mr Horgan began to resurface. These stories involved the fact that he had done before and after inspections (viewing and touching) of about a dozen women who he had encouraged to have breast enhancement surgery. There were numerous examples of him groping women, feeling them up, stripping them down to their underwear in his office, a continuing parade of aggressive and controlling behaviour towards people and a series of new complaints about money matters.

Did Horgan have a messiah complex? As I was reading the above complaint, I couldn't help but reflect on the claim made by Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, author of CONFRONTING POWER AND SEX IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH, on pg. 12, a quote which I blogged yesterday:

The worst case is that of the 'messiah complex', where a person believes that God is calling him or her to be, as it were, a messiah, a chosen one who is called to some special mission and is, therefore, above the rules that apply to ordinary mortals, including the moral rules. In such cases, if sexual abuse does not occur, some other form of abusive behaviour will.

Both the Bethel community and Bishop Robinson are part of the Catholic culture in Australia, and it would appear that Bethel justifies Bishop Robinson's claim.

BishopAccountability.org has taken note of a program and website, "Four Corners" (click the link for "The God of Broken Hearts"), which has delved into the activities of the Bethel Covenant Community and reported their findings. The website also carries a long and detailed account of what has been happening at Bethel, reiterating claims made in other sources.

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