The Anglicans, Round One (Or: His Grace Falls from Grace)

[For the sake of transparency, it is necessary to point out that this author was subject to abuse in the St George’s Orphanage in Rockhampton, which was operated by the Anglican Church. Despite supporting material from many people, including a Professor of Psychiatry, leading politicians, and former Governor-General, Sir Zelman Cowen that the abuse was responsible for the author not reaching his natural potential in society, a class action resulted in an offer of $4,000, which was duly rejected as inadequate. The postings on the Anglican Church should be viewed in this light, although a sincere attempt has been made to fairly comment.]

Peter John Hollingworth, AC OBE (pictured below – to the right), became Archbishop of Brisbane in 1989. In 1991, he was named Australian of the Year. He reached the pinnacle of his public career when he was appointed Governor-General of Australia in 2001. Then things went wrong, horribly wrong.

hollingworth with little boys

(Image source: http://www.catholicleader.com.au/news.php/top-stories/primary-school-an-ecumenical-first-for-qld_37449)

Just prior to Mr Hollingworth’s award of Australian of the Year, the author approached the heads of all churches and government in Queensland with a list of complaints by several former residents of their children’s homes. These meetings eventually resulted in a written public apology, signed by Queensland State Premier Peter Beattie, (then) Families Minister Anna Bligh (later Premier), and the heads of all of the major churches, including Mr Hollingworth representing the Anglican Church.

The only one that did not agree to that original meeting was Mr Hollingworth. The only time the author met Mr Hollingworth was just before he became Governor-General. This was in the role of an observer at a meeting between Mr Hollingworth and a victim of a church official. Also present was a social worker advocate for the victim.

In an example of just how concerned the Australian public had become, even a decade ago, about the churches’ responses to the paedophile priest issue, Mr Hollingworth was eventually forced to resign as Governor-General, although he and then Prime Minister John Howard held out for some months. The key issue was the claim that he had protected a paedophile priest, John Elliot. Many, however, regard the real turning point in public opinion towards Mr Hollingworth as occurring when he made a comment to the media which suggested he was of the opinion that the victim in one case had, in effect, invited the abuse. Days later, he resigned, avoiding the necessity of the government to remove him.

The Anglican Church’s own enquiry had concluded that Mr Hollingworth had allowed a known paedophile to continue working as a priest. Mr Hollingworth has admitted he made a, “serious error of judgment” and has apologised to the victim’s family, but it was not good enough for most people. The report was conducted by Melbourne QC Peter O’Callaghan and Adelaide academic Professor Freda Briggs.

The report notes that, after being revealed in 1993, Elliot was allowed to remain in the parish until his retirement in 1998. Mr Hollingworth’s lawyers had argued to the enquiry that a, “sudden termination” would have caused, “unwarranted concern” in the parish and been, “very difficult to explain publicly.” Elliot has since been gaoled for multiple charges arising from the 1970s. A psychiatrist had warned Mr Hollingworth that the priest’s “problem” was, “something which keeps recurring and is likely to happen again.”

Even when the problem was raised by the Anglican Church’s insurer in 1999, Mr Hollingworth continued to support the priest. He urged him to keep a low profile because of the, “potential for legal action on the part of the aggrieved individuals, some of whom may feel it is now open season to do so.” (The case caused the Anglican Church to pay approximately $500,000 in damages to a victim). Mr Hollingworth thanked Elliot for his, “happy and fulfilling” work. “I am sure it was valued by all.” Elliot then thanked him for his, “understanding.”

[POSTSCRIPT: On the 17th of November last year, ABC News reported that, “retired Anglican Archbishop and former Australian Governor-General, Peter Hollingworth says he welcomes the royal commission into child abuse and says he would happily appear as a witness. He told Saturday AM’s Elizabeth Jackson that he believes legislating against the sanctity of confession would be useless, because he says priests and ministers would simply break the law.]

Read more here:

Anglican child sex abuse shame (The Age, 31 May, 2004).

Aspinall defends handling of child sex abuse (The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 May, 2003).

Church Sex Abuse Scandals are Not Just a Catholic Crisis (Karen Stephenson, 30 April, 2010).

Peter Hollingworth (Wikipedia).

Peter Hollingworth welcomes child abuse Royal Commission (AM, ABC News, 17 November, 2012).

TOMORROW: Another Anglican Bishop resigns

That’s all I can say

Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)

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