Church condemns sex pest naming

2011-09-14 08:56
Sydney - A Catholic Church diocese on Wednesday condemned as "inappropriate and unfair" the naming by an Australian lawmaker of a priest who allegedly raped an Anglican archbishop decades ago.

Independent senator Nick Xenophon used parliamentary privilege to identify Monsignor Ian Dempsey on Tuesday after the Church declined to stand him down in connection with the alleged abuse of Archbishop John Hepworth.

Hepworth, who was trained and ordained as a Catholic, but shifted to the Anglican church in the 1970s, said he was violently 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, Dempsey, runs a parish in South Australia state, where Xenophon said he was being allowed to practise despite Hepworth's allegations, which he first raised with the Church in 2007.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide said in a statement that it was "surprised and disappointed" by Xenophon's action, saying he was "aware of the extremely sensitive and highly complex" background to the matter.

Allegations

"The fact that the Senator has taken this action is a matter of grave concern to us because it has the potential to interfere with the orderly process of what is already a very difficult and complex matter," it said.

"We now fear for the consequences on all parties concerned, but in particular Archbishop Hepworth himself and also the priest concerned.

"In our view it is inappropriate and unfair for these matters to be aired in public whilst our investigation is not yet complete and when the priest concerned has categorically denied the allegation."

The diocese on Tuesday defended its decision not to suspend the priest as consistent with both religious and civil law.

Xenophon said that since he outed the priest his office had received calls from people making allegations of abuse.

"My office has received many calls this morning from people making allegations about abuse generally," he told reporters without elaborating.

He added that the Church should act to "restore public confidence".

"Rape is rape as a matter of criminal law, therefore any allegation of sexual acts without consent is something that needs to be taken very seriously by anyone who has those allegations brought to them," he said.

Hepworth, head of a breakaway Anglican group seeking reconciliation with the Vatican, raised the matter in public for the first time after decades of silence with a media interview on Saturday.

It followed an apology and offer of A$75 000 compensation from the Archdiocese of Melbourne in relation to the two men he accused of abuse who are now dead.

Hepworth, 67, has not sought to bring criminal charges over the case.
Read more on:    roman catholic church  |  child abuse
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