8th August, 2018 | Melissa Davey | The Guardian
Child sexual abuse survivors’ group asks why Hollingworth was not asked to resign after royal commission report
The Anglican diocese of Melbourne has rejected criticism it is ignoring complaints about Bishop Peter Hollingworth, as questions were raised about the independence of the diocese’s office of professional standards.
Hollingworth admitted to the child sexual abuse royal commission in 2016 that he poorly handled a complaint of sexual abuse by a priest, and he apologised to the victim. He also accepted that he failed to protect child sexual abuse victims within the church. Hollingworth was head of the Brisbane diocese from 1990 to 2001.
A report from the child abuse royal commission found Hollingworth misled the commission when he said he believed a report of abuse made to him about pedophile priest John Elliot at the Church of England Grammar School in 1993 was an “isolated incident”.
“This evidence was inconsistent with the other evidence before the royal commission that Dr Hollingworth was aware of there being multiple boys Mr Elliot had abused,” the report found.
Eight months after the royal commission delivered its final report, survivors are questioning why the Anglican church has yet to take disciplinary action against Hollingworth.
Leonie Sheedy is the head of the Care Leavers Australasia Network, which represents those abused in children’s homes and foster care, including those run by churches.
“How come he [Hollingworth] wasn’t directed to go after he appeared at the royal commission?” Sheedy said. “Why hasn’t he been directed to resign and why hasn’t the church leadership told him; ‘the time is up for you’?”
On Wednesday afternoon the archbishop of Melbourne, Philip Freier, released a statement saying all complaints against clergy were taken seriously, that complaints were referred to the commission for children and young people where required, and were also handled by the church’s independent complaints body, Kooyoora Ltd. He did not say whether complaints made about Hollingworth had been referred on.
“My role is to respect that independent process and allow it to do its work, free of interference or public commentary from the church,” Freier said. He said he was bound to follow “any substantive recommendation” of Kooyoora’s professional standards board or review board, and had to make public the action he took.
But questions have been raised about Kooyoora’s independence from the church given it was established by the dioceses of Melbourne and Bendigo. A document outlining Kooyoora’s funding arrangements states the dioceses gave Kooyoora one-off funding to set up an office and hire employees. Kooyoora is managed by a board that includes clergy and church members.
“The Kooyoora constitution has the ability to have up to 10 members, with the initial two members being the Melbourne and Bendigo dioceses,” the document states. “It is envisaged that in future there will be other members.”
Kooyoora Ltd operates on a fee-for-service basis and annual subscription basis. It was established with a non-refundable capital grant from the Anglican dioceses of Melbourne and Bendigo, and is a registered charity. A Kooyoora spokeswoman told Guardian Australia the organisation had “functional independence from the dioceses of Melbourne and Bendigo”.
But Kooyoora’s professional standards directors and deputy directors, the professional standards committee, the board and review board are all appointed by the directors of the company. The current members of the company are the Melbourne Anglican Diocesan Corporation Ltd and the Bendigo Anglican Diocesan Corporation Ltd.
Sheedy rejected Kooyoora’s ability to thoroughly investigate complaints. “It has the church’s money attached to it,” she said. “How could it be independent?”
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