Under fire priest vows to clear his name

Dr Godfrey was suspended for a year from his job as a priest at the Diocese of Waiapu. Photo / Warren Buckland
Dr Godfrey was suspended for a year from his job as a priest at the Diocese of Waiapu. Photo / Warren Buckland

Under fire dean of Napier Cathedral, Dr Michael Godfrey, has denied accusations of a long term affair with an underage girl, as he vowed to clear his name.

Dr Godfrey was suspended for a year from his job as a priest at the Diocese of Waiapu after revelations of two extra marital affairs he had 25 years ago were made public yesterday.

The Diocese of Waiapu said Dr Godfrey's conduct had fallen short of that expected of an Anglican priest, adding that it was a "historic matter of behaviour" related to church law.

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In an interview with Rachel Smalley of Newstalk ZB, Dr Godfrey said the 25-year-old issue had resurfaced because the Royal Commission in Australia, who were looking into institutional responses to child abuse, had been given his name. It was later thrown out, he said.

"They look at it and said look it is immoral but we are not moral judges, it is not criminal, it is not predatory flick past it. The church picked it up and said look it is a lapse in moral standards.

"[Then] the story changed, I was actually accused of having a long term affair with an underage girl which is not true, the dates were wrong, the places were wrong, somewhere there were some Chinese whispers and it all went wrong."

He said the women he had affairs with were both consenting adults of legal age.

"I would never have done anything if that hadn't have been the case."

Dr Godfrey said he was unsure who had initially put his name forward to the Commission but the story was "twisted".

Given the option to disclose the issue to the Diocese of Waiapu, Dr Godfrey said he had left the matter in the hands of an Australian Bishop who had told him the matter was closed.

"In 2013 when it came before the Royal Commission he called me and said what is going on, I told him, he said 'yep look it is really bad but the matter is closed'."

He said the Bishop of Waiupu discovered the infidelity in April last year.

"He basically investigated the story ... and they took the best part of 12 months then called me in in February and said this had happened. At this stage the story was that I had a sustained affair with an underage girl. I defended that part of it but he drew the line in the sand and said it was unacceptable conduct."

Dr Godfrey said he had questioned the suspension following the revelations.

"If the church is preaching forgiveness, preaching love, preaching grace, I got it wrong but do I have to have it wrong for the rest of my life."

He said his the suspension would give him time to look at his options in the coming weeks and he would decide whether to appeal the decision.

"I do want to clear my name. I think I have been maligned in this business. I wouldn't want [my] position back. Whether I go back into paid priesthood, I will take time to think about that."

Dr Godfrey, 56, was made dean in 2013. He had formerly been based in the Northern Territory of Australia and was archdeacon of Southern Rural Darwin, rector of the Parish of the Good Shepherd in Fred's Pass and chaplain at Kormilda College and Anglican secondary school in Darwin.

Among his credentials he had been a broadcasting cadet for Radio New Zealand, a specialist broadcaster in Adelaide and an auxiliary firefighter for the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service, which he was also chaplain to.

- NZ Herald

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