Abuse survivors say Peter Hollingworth should not be a bishop

Anglican Archbishop Peter Freier says he has followed independent process

Survivors of sexual abuse are complaining that former Governor-General Peter Hollingworth remains a Bishop in the Anglican church of Australia. The Royal Commission into the Institutional response to Child Abuse found that Hollingworth as Archbishop of Brisbane permitted a pedophile priest, John Linton Elliot, to remain in the ministry. Hollingworth accepted at the Royal Commission that he made a “serious error of judgement” in his handling of the Elliot case.

In 2002 Elliot was sentenced to seven and a half years’ imprisonment with a 30-month non-parole period in relation to child sexual abuse offences against five boys, all aged between 10 and 13, and in 2003 Hollingworth resigned as Governor General.

In the face of the recent criticism about Hollingworth still being a bishop in Melbourne’s Anglican Diocese, Archbishop Philip Freier stated he has acted in line with the Diocese’s independent complaints body, Kooyoora.

“My role is to respect that independent process and allow it to do its work, free of interference or public commentary from the Church,” Archbishop Freier said today in a statement responding to an ABC report about complaints made to the Diocese about Hollingworth.

“Archbishop Freier is bound to follow any substantive recommendation … and must make public the action he takes.”

Archbishop Freier’s statement rejected the ABC report’s claims that complaints had been ignored by the Melbourne Diocese. “All complaints against clergy are taken very seriously,” said the statement, outlining how they are handled by Kooyoora, an independent complaints body appointed by the Diocese. The “independent process” involves Kooyoora holding “people accountable for their conduct and makes determinations as to their fitness for office”.

According to today’s statement, “Archbishop Freier is bound to follow any substantive recommendation of Kooyoora’s independent Professional Standards Board or Review Board, and must make public the action he takes.”

Eternity asked a spokesperson for Archbishop Freier whether the Archbishop should ask or instruct Hollingworth to step down from his bishop role. He declined to comment specifically and directed Eternity to today’s press statement, which also expressed disappointment about claims Victorian MP Fiona Patten made to the ABC about the Diocese not supporting the compulsory reporting of child sex-abuse allegations to police.

The Diocese states it provided MP Patten written evidence that all parishes have been given a code of conduct for child safety, including the need to notify police about child sexual abuse.

The ABC reports the Freier has renewed Hollingworth’s permission to officiate as a bishop four times since 2007.

Hollingworth’s long tenure as head of welfare agency the Brotherhood of St Laurence (prior to his Brisbane appointment) has given him a high profile in Melbourne.

His case has a parallel in Britain where the former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey was stripped of his license to officiate after his mishandling of the case of Bishop Peter Ball came to light. Carey getting his license back has renewed the controversy just as as an independent government inquiry into the Peter Ball case takes place.

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