Abuse survivors slam Anglican Church ruling of ex governor-general Peter Hollingworth amid calls for re-investigation – ABC News

Abuse survivors slam Anglican Church ruling of ex governor-general Peter Hollingworth amid calls for re-investigation - ABC News

Survivors of church abuse have slammed the finding of an Anglican Church investigation into former governor-general Peter Hollingworth and called for him to be re-examined by an independent body.

Dr Hollingworth resigned as governor-general in 2003, following a series of revelations that he allowed paedophile priests to keep working while he was the Archbishop of Brisbane in the 1990s.

On Monday, an inquiry by the Professional Standards Board of the Anglican Church ruled Dr Hollingworth should not be stripped or defrocked of his holy orders, despite finding he committed misconduct by allowing two priests to remain in the church who he knew had sexually abused children.

The inquiry found Dr Hollingworth was “fit for ministry”, as long as he offered apologies to victim survivors of child sexual abuse who suffered under his leadership when he was Archbishop.

Dr Hollingworth, who still holds the status and authority of a bishop, is 88 and his most recent work with the church has been as a priest at St George’s Anglican Church in Malvern.

The board recommended his ministry be confined to duties in this role including facilitating weddings, funerals, baptisms and other services when invited.

The panel recommended Dr Hollingworth’s role in the church be confined to priestly duties at St George’s Anglican Church in Melbourne’s inner east.()

The ruling has sparked outrage from victim survivors of Anglican child sexual abuse and beyond.

Many, including abuse survivor Beth Heinrich, have been campaigning for Dr Hollingworth to be defrocked for years.

Ms Heinrich has spent decades fighting for justice and redress for the abuse she suffered at the hands of Anglican priest Donald Shearman when she was 15 years old.

Mr Shearman is one of two clerics who Dr Hollingworth allowed to remain in the ministry despite knowing they had sexually assaulted children.

Ms Heinrich told the ABC the decision was disappointing but not surprising.

“I wasn’t surprised at all, I was half expecting it.

“I was hoping to set an example for people who hadn’t come forward, hoping to make them feel braver. But what’s the sense in coming forward if you get decisions like that?

“If Peter Hollingworth thinks an apology to me will rectify anything well his apology would be too late. The time to help me was when I went to him in ’95.”

Ms Heinrich said abuse survivors were “bitterly disappointed” with the finding.

Investigating 10 allegations made against Dr Hollingworth, the board ruled there was “no acceptable risk of harm to any person” if Dr Hollingworth continues to hold his position as bishop.

Dr Hollingworth has been found “fit for ministry” by the Professional Standards Board of the Anglican Church.()

In a statement, Dr Hollingworth said he accepted the board’s recommendations and has reflected on his failings.

“I made mistakes and I cannot undo them. But I committed no crimes,” he said.

“There is no evidence that there was any abuse because of any decisions I made, or did not make.

“I had devoted my life to social justice, pastoral care and healing but I had little experience in dealing with the child abuse issues. Like other church leaders, I was unduly influenced by the advice of lawyers and insurance companies.”

Ms Heinrich said she believed the decision will stop people from coming forward “because they will think it’s just not worth the effort”.

“I’ve been five years waiting for this so-called committee board to make a decision and it’s just been disgraceful.”

‘Livid’ survivors call for re-investigation

Ms Heinrich’s outrage at what she believes to be a lack of independence has been echoed by other victim-survivors of the Anglican community.

Beyond Abuse CEO Steve Fisher said survivors and advocates “totally reject” the findings and have called for Hollingworth to be re-investigated within a 12-month period with an independent board.

An abuse survivor himself, Mr Fisher said the ruling was yet another “huge blow”.

“It’s just re-traumatising survivors who have the guts to come forward. But every time they finally think they’ll get a bit of justice it is diminished by the church and their so-called investigative body,” he said.

“We are calling on them to do it again and do it right. Get someone independent in.

“These allegations against Mr Hollingworth are not trivial. We are livid about it.

“We are calling on the church to re-do the whole process, examine all the evidence in full.”

Beth Heinrich’s lawyer Judy Courtin says the ruling was a “retrograde step” following the royal commission.()

Mr Heinrich’s lawyer Judy Courtin said she was “gobsmacked” by the ruling — an outcome she described as a “complete white wash”.

“It’s really a form of perhaps concealment and cover up to protect someone’s reputation. It’s a disgrace. It not only does not deliver justice and accountability to our client, it has caused further trauma and abuse.

“To find that it was nothing but a wrap over the knuckles was surprising to a degree but also very, very harmful and disgraceful,” Dr Courtin said.

“This decision provides nothing but disincentive to survivors. Why would they bother to bear their souls… when this is the outcome?

“What message is this giving to senior Anglican clergy? It’s saying you don’t have to de-frock a fellow priest if you find out they’ve been sexually abusing someone. 

“It’s upholding concealment and criminal activities in the church.”

‘A troubling retrograde step’

Five years on from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Dr Courtin said this decision signalled a “troubling” move backwards.

“This decision is a retrograde step. It just does not fit the post-royal commission world. It’s going back to church behaviour of the past that we had a five-year royal commission trying to correct.”

The findings came amid criticism of secrecy and delays levelled at Kooyoora, the body handling the complaints process.

The four members of the panel were lawyer Robin Brett KC, former Family Court of Australia judge Paul Cronin, Reverend Keiron Jones and Kooyoora board member Marie Davis.

Cathy Kezelman has called for Dr Hollingworth to voluntarily step down from his position.()

In a statement, Australia’s national centre of excellence for complex trauma, the Blue Knot Foundation, said Monday’s findings demonstrated the “outrage of institutions investigating themselves”.

President Cathy Kezelman AM described the investigation as “far from comprehensive” and “anything but independent”.

“This is an absolute travesty, and further negation of the cumulative harm over which Peter Hollingworth has presided,” Dr Kezelman said.

“After a five-year process replete with delays and obfuscation, the only decent response is for Peter Hollingworth to voluntary resign his Holy Orders, and a full independent investigation to be conducted without delay.”

Ms Heinrich told victim survivors “to keep fighting for the justice they know they deserve”.

She said she planned to take further action against the findings in future and would be involved in moves to amend the Governor-General Act.

Source: abc.net.au

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