THE Catholic Church has cleared priest Ian Dempsey to return to parish duties, despite an ongoing police sex-crimes investigation into allegations he raped former Traditional Anglican Church primate John Hepworth more than 40 years ago.
This comes as the Director of Public Prosecutions, Adam Kimber, considers whether to lay charges against the priest.
Vicar-General Philip Marshall told The Weekend Australian Monsignor Dempsey's resumption of ministry was justified on the basis of an independent investigation by Michael Abbott QC last year, which found no substance to allegations made by Archbishop Hepworth. "It was now evident that despite the fact the matter was referred to police as long ago as November 2011, it is obvious that any inquiries by police could take some time to be completed," Father Marshall said.
"His return to ministry, which is founded on his right to the presumption of innocence, does not contravene any of the church's policies or any civil requirements, therefore there was no reason for him not to resume his parish duties."
Monsignor Dempsey was named under parliamentary privilege by senator Nick Xenophon last September as one of three alleged perpetrators who raped Archbishop Hepworth over a 10-year period while he was in the Adelaide seminary.
Archbishop John Hepworth quizzed on renovation funds
23rd September 2012 The Australian
The former Australian head of the Traditional Anglican Communion has been questioned about his involvement in financial irregularities within the breakaway church.
Archbishop John Hepworth, who was instrumental in seeking his church’s reunion with Rome, was forced to resign as the global head of the TAC in April, seven months after he raised allegations that he had been raped by Adelaide priest Ian Dempsey and two others in the 1960s.
Monsignor Dempsey returned to work last week after he was stood aside by the church for 12 months. Police investigations into the matter are ongoing and the South Australian Director of Public Prosecutions, Adam Kimber, is considering whether or not to lay charges.
In a letter obtained by The Australian and sent by the new head of the breakaway church, Samuel Prakash, to Archbishop Hepworth confirming the acceptance of his resignation in April, he raised allegations about financial concerns.
“Although this is a local church matter, and will have to be dealt with in that forum before action can be taken . . . we wish to express our shock and dismay at what we have heard.”
The TAC, also known as Anglican Catholics, is a breakaway group from the Anglican Church with about 400,000 members around the world, including in Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, India, Pakistan and the US.
The scathing letter, which discusses Archbishop Hepworth’s “very poor quality of leadership”, detailed concerns about alterations and additions to private properties owned by the former church leader and lay canon Cheryl Woodman.
“Both you and Ms Woodman have made substantial alterations and additions to your private properties at the expense of the Australian church to accommodate the Office of the Primate, and I require details of those additions to private property from you, as well as the authorisation that preceded the construction thereof,” Archbishop Prakash wrote.
The new global head accused Archbishop Hepworth of a “shocking lack of integrity” in his decision not to join the Catholic church as an ordinary citizen despite committing to do so if the church in Rome approved the reunification.
Archbishop Hepworth said he had never made any alterations to his property, other than converting a disused bedroom into an office. “They may well be talking about the fact the church built an office and repository for documents on Cheryl Woodman’s property,” he told The Australian.
Archbishop Hepworth said the TAC had bought a former church in the Adelaide Hills for $104,000, but sold it later for $400,000.
He said the TAC used the profits of the sale to fund the office on Ms Woodman’s land at Lobethal in the hills outside Adelaide.
A Catholic archdiocese source said allegations of financial mismanagement were raised when Archbishop Hepworth was administrator of the parish of Glenelg, a beachside Adelaide suburb, in 1974.
“There has never been anything in it; the church has never been able to prove anything,” Archbishop Hepworth said. “It never happened.”
He also faced court in Ballarat about 30 years ago charged with misappropriating $1200 from the Anglican parish of Sebastopol. “I wrote a cheque from a church account for a debt; there was no conviction recorded,” he said.
Monsignor Dempsey has maintained his innocence since Archbishop Hepworth raised his allegations, and has been given the full support of the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide to return to parish duties.
Monsignor Dempsey said his hiatus had a serious impact on his health. “The pressure has taken its toll, and the stress of knowing that I’m innocent and having to put up with this ongoing investigation for some time.” He said his absence had created a ripple effect on his parish.
Despite the police investigation continuing, an independent report commissioned by the church and conducted by Adelaide silk Michael Abbott cleared Monsignor Dempsey last year. “It concerns me that it hasn’t been concluded, even though I’ve been cleared by Mr Abbott,” he said.
Church to hold Hearing in India
25th September The Australian
The Traditional Anglican Communion will conduct a special internal hearing in India next month into allegations of financial irregularities at the Australian arm of the church involving Archbishop John Hepworth, which were first raised by a priest he had tried to suspend.
Archbishop Hepworth yesterday said he had not been told what charges he was facing and would not attend the tribunal in New Delhi on October 6.
The acting primate of the breakaway church, India-based Archbishop Samuel Prakash, said the allegations against the Adelaide priest were yet to be tested.
“This matter was presented by Bishop David Robarts, a standing TAC bishop in Australia, and (is) under consideration,” he said.
Bishop Robarts yesterday refused to say what allegations he had raised with the church’s international leadership, but said he hoped the issues would be resolved at the tribunal.
Archbishop Hepworth, who was instrumental in seeking his church’s reunion with Rome, was forced to resign as the global head of the TAC in April, seven months after he raised allegations that he had been raped by Adelaide Catholic priest Ian Dempsey and two others in the 1960s.
A meeting of the church leadership in South Africa this year found Archbishop Hepworth had tried to suspend Bishop Robarts from the church on “insufficient” grounds.
Yesterday, he denied any wrongdoing. “This is la-la land,” Archbishop Hepworth said. “Of course I’m not going to India – I don’t know what I’m charged with. I wasn’t even a signatory on the church’s accounts in the last six years.”