Catholic cleric quits over sex scandal

2011-09-15 14:19

Sydney - A senior Catholic official embroiled in a sex abuse scandal in Australia resigned from government duties on Thursday, saying he did not wish the issue to become a distraction.

Adelaide vicar-general Monsignor David Cappo stepped down as chair of the Mental Health Commission after claims that he failed to properly investigate the rape of a young man who is now an Anglican archbishop in the 1960s.

One of the alleged perpetrators, a practising priest, was named in parliament this week by independent Senator Nick Xenophon, who accused Cappo of not acting on the victim's complaints, made some four years ago.

Cappo said he "emphatically rejected any suggestion that I or the Church handled the complaint by John Hepworth with anything other than proper and due diligence", but he had decided to leave his government role.

"This matter has the potential to distract from the important work of the newly-formed Mental Health Commission. I cannot allow that to occur," he said in a statement.

Denial

He also resigned as deputy chief of the government's social inclusion policy panel.

Xenophon had questioned whether Cappo's failure to act in a "timely and decisive manner" on Hepworth's allegations made him unsuitable for the mental health role.

Hepworth, who was trained and ordained as a Catholic but converted to the Anglican church in the 1970s, said he was raped and sexually abused over 12 years from the age of 15 by two priests and a seminary student.

Two of the men are now dead but the third, named in parliament on Tuesday as Monsignor Ian Dempsey, still runs a parish in the state of South Australia.

Dempsey categorically denied Hepworth's allegations, currently being investigated by the Archdiocese, saying they were unsubstantiated and "are said to relate to events that occurred some 45 years ago".

Read more on:    roman catholic church  |  australia  |  child abuse
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