Ex-governor-general Peter Hollingworth ‘fit for ministry’ despite misconduct, Anglican Church board finds – ABC News

Ex-governor-general Peter Hollingworth 'fit for ministry' despite misconduct, Anglican Church board finds - ABC News

An Anglican Church investigation has found former governor-general Peter Hollingworth committed misconduct by knowingly allowing paedophiles to remain in the church when he was Brisbane archbishop, but is “fit for ministry” if he apologises to two victim-survivors.

The Professional Standards Board of the Anglican Church has been considering whether Dr Hollingworth, who remains a bishop, should be defrocked over his handling of abuse cases while he was archbishop in the 1990s.

It found that Dr Hollingworth committed misconduct by allowing two priests he knew had sexually abused children to remain in the church.

However, it found he should be allowed to retain his holy orders.

The tribunal recommended the Anglican archbishop of Melbourne reprimand Dr Hollingworth for his decision to retain abusive priests in the ministry, and apologise to two victim-survivors.

“There will be no unacceptable risk of harm to any person if the Respondent [Dr Hollingworth] continues to hold the role office or position he currently holds,” the board found.

Dr Hollingworth has accepted the board’s recommendations.

“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.”

In a statement, Dr Hollingworth said there had hardly been a day when he had not “reflected on these matters and my failings”.

“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,” he said.

In a statement, Melbourne Archbishop Philip Freier said he would carry out the board’s recommendations and would publish a further written statement “in the coming days”.

“It is important to note that the Diocese has no influence over the complaints process. I have not been involved in any deliberations or investigation,” he said.

The body handling the process — Kooyoora — was accused of making the investigation too secretive, with one abuse survivor describing it as “uninviting and non-transparent.”

The hearing, which began on February 6 and ran for four days, was closed to the public and the media.

Finding follows years of campaigning by abuse survivors

In 2018, the ABC revealed that Dr Hollingworth was the subject of multiple complaints from survivors of abuse at the hands of Anglican clergy and teaching staff in the Brisbane diocese, where Dr Hollingworth served as archbishop in the 1990s.

Dr Hollingworth resigned as governor-general in 2003 after a series of revelations over his handling of sexual abuse allegations while he was the archbishop of Brisbane.

A 2002 inquiry by the Anglican Diocese of Brisbane found Dr Hollingworth allowed paedophile priest John Elliot to continue working until retirement, despite Elliot admitting to Dr Hollingworth he had sexually abused two boys.

Beth Heinrich was a complainant who campaigned for an investigation.()

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found Dr Hollingworth made a “serious error of judgement”, and failed to take into account a psychiatrist’s advice that Elliot was an “untreatable” paedophile who posed a risk of reoffending.

In the months following the report, Melbourne Archbishop Philip Freier renewed Dr Hollingworth’s permission to officiate in the church — a decision which infuriated survivors.

Misconduct committed by allowing paedophile priests to remain in church, panel finds

The panel investigated 10 allegations made against Dr Hollingworth, relating to sexual abuse perpetrated by men associated with the church.

In line with the 2002 inquiry, the standards panel found Dr Hollingworth had committed misconduct by permitting Elliot to remain in ministry when he knew he posed a risk to the safety and wellbeing of children.

Dr Hollingworth was also found to have committed misconduct by permitting cleric Donald Shearman “who he knew had sexually assaulted a child, to retain his permission to officiate”.

He was also found to have committed misconduct by making “an unreasonable and dangerous appointment to a position of responsibility and authority within the Anglican Church”, when he appointed Gilbert Case to the role of executive director of the Anglican Schools Commission in 2000.

The panel found Dr Hollingworth knew Mr Case had ignored a complaint of abuse at a Queensland school.

However, it found “that information did not come to his mind at the time the appointment was up for consideration” and said while the matter was not trivial, “we cannot regard this act of misconduct as being as serious as the others”.

Beth Heinrich sought redress over abuse she suffered at the hands of an Anglican priest.()

It also found Dr Hollingworth “made a statement that was unsatisfactory, insensitive and that he should have foreseen was likely to be distressing” when he made comments to ABC program Australian Story about one of Shearman’s victims, Beth Heinrich.

Ms Heinrich has been campaigning for Dr Hollingworth to lose his holy orders, also known as being defrocked, due to his conduct while he was archbishop.

The panel recommended Dr Hollingworth apologise to her “for his decision to retain Donald Shearman in ministry despite his knowledge of Donald Shearman’s sexual abuse of Ms Heinrich, for his failure to understand and give proper weight to the harm suffered by Ms Heinrich as a result of Donald Shearman’s abuse, and for his harsh, dismissive and insensitive words about Ms Heinrich as broadcast on ‘Australian Story’ in February 2002”.

It also found Dr Hollingworth committed misconduct when he wrote a letter to the brother of one of Elliot’s victims described as “being inappropriate and insensitive”.

However, it found that he had accurately stated in the letter that Elliot had been “brought under the discipline of the Church”.

It recommended he apologise that victim, given the pseudonym BYB, and his family “for his two decisions to retain John Elliot in ministry despite his knowledge of sexual abuse committed by John Elliot, for his failure to understand and give proper weight to the harm suffered by John Elliot’s victims, and for his harsh and insensitive letter to BYB’s brother of 11 September 1995”.

Five years ago, the ABC revealed that a former Kooyoora director of professional standards told a sexual abuse survivor there was “… more than enough justification to prove [Dr Hollingworth’s] unfitness to hold Holy Orders”.

Dr Hollingworth ‘repeatedly admitted those mistakes and made multiple apologies’

The standards board dismissed three of the allegations made against Dr Hollingworth.

It dismissed an allegation that Dr Hollingworth “intentionally or recklessly permitted his lawyers to send a letter to the Brisbane Inquiry which contained a false or misleading statement that the abuse committed by Elliot had been a “single, isolated incident” when in fact there had been multiple abusive incidents”.

It also dismissed an allegation that during an interview with ABC program Australian story in 2002 he “intentionally or recklessly made an inaccurate public statement that he had never met any of the family of a boy abused by John Elliot when in fact he had met members of the family”.

It dismissed an allegation that Dr Hollingworth failed to make proper efforts to provide care and support to two young people who were sexually assaulted by Kevin Guy, a former Toowoomba Preparatory School employee who died after being charged with sexual offences.

Dr Hollingworth apologised at the child sex abuse royal commission in Hobart in 2016.()

In his statement, Dr Hollingworth said he had kept his silence since the investigation began in 2017 out of respect to the process.

“The investigations and hearings by the Professional Standards Board have been long and painful for everyone involved – the complainants, their families and me and my family,” he said.

He noted that the allegations presented to the board had been considered by the Anglican Diocese of Brisbane Board of Inquiry in 2003, Queensland Police and two separate hearings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

“None of those inquiries recommended sanctions, even though the Royal Commission was critical of me on some matters. I have repeatedly admitted those mistakes and made multiple apologies,” he said.

He said that “it is good that the Royal Commission and similar inquiries have led to changes in the law, attitudes and processes in churches and other institutions”.

“Survivors of abuse have a much better chance of being heard and achieving justice than they did last century,” he said.

“And most importantly, the momentum achieved on this issue means we can reasonably believe that the incidence of abuse in institutions has been dramatically reduced, even eliminated.”

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.

“We believe the Respondent’s statement before the Royal Commission that since leaving the office of Governor-General he has come to a proper understanding of the true effects of sexual abuse upon children,” the panel wrote in its findings.

“We have taken into account also that he at no time attempted to conceal his actions: he explained clearly to both Ms Heinrich and BYB and his family the decisions he had made and his reasons for making them.

“Those decisions were wrong, but as we have said before, they were honest attempts to do what was right.”

The panel said Dr Hollingworth should remain in his current roles as priest at the St George’s church in Melbourne.

Source: abc.net.au

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