November 2011

Referring page



News of Archbishop Hepworth

The Australian has a new article about the controversy in southern Australia concerning Archbishop Hepworth. Most of the article simply resumes the story of events last September. However, here are the most important paragraphs:

THE South Australian archbishop who claims to have been raped by three Catholic priests more than 40 years ago began mediation with the church last night.

The Traditional Anglican Communion’s John Hepworth was last night due to meet mediator John Fleming, a former Anglican priest who converted to Catholicism, to discuss his calls for the diocese to recognise the alleged abuse.

“I am hopeful that the process will emerge that will enable the very unhelpful events of the past several years to be put behind us,” Archbishop Hepworth told The Australian yesterday.

(…)Archbishop Hepworth said he had come forward because he could not be part of the Traditional Anglican Communion’s reconciliation with Rome until he had sought personal reconciliation. He first raised his claims with the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide four years ago.


Archbishop Hepworth shows a Noble Attitude

Cutting through the journalistic language of a newspaper that does not seem to be too sympathetic to anything other than postmodern secularism and money, we see a very noble and Christian attitude on the part of Archbishop Hepworth.

What came out last September – the story of Senator Nick Xenophon having used parliamentary privilege to name Monsignor Ian Dempsey as having raped Archbishop Hepworth as a young priest weakened by years of systematic blackmail and abuse – is all about explaining why Archbishop Hepworth left the Roman Catholic priesthood in the 1970’s. The Archbishop did not go public from motives of attacking the Church or obtaining large sums of money as compensation. He did so because he was being stonewalled.

Priests leave the ministry for all kinds of reasons, typically because they have had enough of celibacy and want to get married with the girls they fell in love with. Other motives include losing the faith, wanting to join another church or after a serious dispute from their Bishop. One who leaves the ministry is labelled an apostate and it is very rare for them ever to be readmitted into the priestly ministry. This is called incurring a canonical irregularity against the exercise of orders received (or against receiving orders for those who are not yet ordained), and this canonical crime is reserved to the Holy See. When there are mitigating circumstances (the will is not entirely free and there is constraint in the matter), the irregularity can be dispensed and the priest readmitted to ministry.

Please note that Archbishop Hepworth at no time said that the sexual abuse never occurred. He merely wants no legal action to be taken against his aggressor. I find this shows great lucidity, priestly forgiving and nobility on the part of Archbishop Hepworth, and it reinforces his credibility.

Archbishop Hepworth said “it wasn’t my will that the Dempsey matter become public” and he would gladly “drop” the matter if the Archdiocese recognised the other allegations.

He said he had no faith in a Church inquiry led by Michael Abbott, QC, and would ask Archbishop Philip Wilson to adjourn it if his other claims were recognised and the Dempsey accusation accepted “in good faith”.

That would allow him to join 31 other Traditional Anglican Communion priests who were recently approved for ordination back into the Catholic Church after high-level meetings at the Vatican.

Archbishop Hepworth has refused to cooperate with the Abbott-led inquiry because “I don’t know the terms of reference or ground rules”.


Archbishop Hepworth said he needed the Adelaide Archdiocese to acknowledge that abuse was the reason he fled the Church almost 30 years ago.

“In exchange for the diocese accepting the Melbourne report – and specifically the abuse in the seminary that caused me to leave the Church by (Ronald) Pickering and (John) Stockdale – and in accepting my good faith in accusing Dempsey and helping me in my approach to the Vatican I would be prepared to request the Archbishop to adjourn indefinitely the inquiry,” he told The Advertiser.

Senator Xenophon said the Archdiocese’s system for dealing with complaints had “completely failed John Hepworth”.


Rousing Words from Bishop Michael Gill

Bishop Michael Gill (TAC Southern Africa) has given a keynote address at the Conference of Continuing Anglicans in Boston USA yesterday: Bishop Michael Gill’s Keynote Address at the Conference of Continuing Anglicans. I note that Archbishop Prakash of the TAC in India is present at the meeting.

You can read the address for yourselves, but allow me a few quotes:

For the past few years, around early December, all my clergy have received a Christmas card from the Canon Missioner of another Continuing Anglican group in South Africa, inviting them to abandon their loyalty to their church, and to come over to a far better Continuing Anglican option, that being his particular church and diocese.


There are two issues here. Firstly, it is a very bad Christian practice to proselytise in any way, as I am sure you agree? It is, in fact, something we should avoid and abhor. It makes for bad blood amongst Christian brethren, and too often, it allows bad clergy to escape discipline and continue their poor practices in another jurisdiction without any consequence for previous misconduct.

More important to us is the sender.

The grand title of “Canon Missioner” should surely imply a man on fire for the Gospel; a very pioneer of the church – cutting a path into the darkness of unbelief in a sinful world? An “invitation” such as has been so regularly sent, serves not only to point out a serious flaw in the man’s understanding of his primary task – that of Mission – but it highlights the sad fact that he probably does not know how to do this work, and so he has had to resort to far more basic tricks to try to fill his churches…..it is a sad but true story. I am sure many of you have had a similar experience?

This is certainly being thrown out to illustrate the kind of behaviour that has always caused division between “alphabet soup” groups.

Bishop Gill describes his experience with Anglicanorum Coetibus, simply the fact that it does not [presently] apply in South Africa.

We are all aware of the furore it has created in Anglican circles and of the people who have been polarised by the various, and usually naïve interpretations given to the document. The blogs have been the most hysterical and creative by far, with some fascinating views on the future liturgies that will be used and just who the Ordinaries will be…. Basically, and I do this only for clarity, there is a fresh offer on the table for Anglican Christians to “swap allegiance” and join the Roman Catholic Church – to ‘convert’ as individuals or groups and become Roman Catholics.

That the arrangement is entirely on Rome’s terms should have hardly been a surprise to anyone who has read any Church History!

About 12 months ago, in a face to face meeting around Anglicanorum Coetibus with Archbishop George Daniel [and yes, he is a retired Archbishop, but he is still one of senior the persons in charge of Anglican/Roman Catholic dialogue in Southern Africa], my wife and I were told that not only would there be no Ordinariate in Southern Africa, but that the conversion to Roman Catholicism required would in many cases go back “as far as Baptism” depending on the original church background of the convert. [This was fizzed over by the blogging community for a brief moment!] Archbishop Daniel is a highly sophisticated man, someone I have known and respected for more than 20years, and he was as gentle as possible in breaking the news that we (all the Continuing Anglicans in Southern Africa) were an immature lot, and a long way away from the levels of theological education expected for acceptance as Roman clergy.

He went on to tell us, in a great amount of detail, of his personal journey from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism, and made it plain that this authentic personal conversion decision would be the route to follow. It was actually a really good conversation, open and extremely positive, and it was exactly as we had expected, but not at all close to what we had been told by those with stars in their eyes and their hands already grasping for St Peter’s keys?

Some of you readers might be inclined to throw the book at Bishop Gill, but you might think of proposing a better alternative, perhaps even cutting him a little slack considering that he lives in a dangerous part of the world. I would also have thought that some kind heart in Rome could have written to him : We haven’t the time and resources to deal with countries other than England, Australia, the USA and Canada for the time being, but we intend to in the future. Please be patient for a couple of years until we can get a properly instructed delegate in place. Something like that would have been nice.

I do think that Bishop Gill is in a front-lines position of extreme realism. He lives in a world where his clergy are murdered for just about no reason at all. Life is cheap in South Africa. The bottom line is that we face persecution, and conservatism and walling-in would be the death of us.

Empires are doomed the moment they begin to fence, or rather, wall themselves in. Imperialism is, by definition, the building of empires and therefore, it has to be expansive and dynamic. The very fact of a wall indicates an end of growth and the shift to a defensive mentality – that of an empire at the end of its time and its energy and usually about to be lost! A good modern example of this is the Berlin Wall or if you prefer, Mr Churchill’s Iron Curtain; the attempt to wall out democracy and stop people leaving a repressive political system for a better life. Its fall remains the defining moment of the death of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.

May I suggest, without I hope, being offensive, that by our very definition as Continuing Anglicans, we have determined to defend that which we have received? We have often decided within our own minds that ours is a rearguard action against the “onslaught of liberalism” – a last ditch defence? A ‘walling in’ of what we know and hold dear? “No-one will take the Book of Common Prayer away from me!!” If that is so, my dear friends, then I am afraid that we are all lost….and so is Anglicanism….and so ultimately will be the Christian Faith!

Although I appreciate what we are doing here – and although I can clearly seethe value of interaction and networking – and who knows, this could even lead to what one blogger recently called a new “Continuing Anglican unity”, I am deeply concerned that the inward looking nature of our expression will simply continue a circular downward movement in which we could easily find ourselves trapped. The Vicar General of Zimbabwe, Fr Wellington Murinda (a true evangelist and a great missionary Priest), tells his men in the field, “don’t speak to me; show me the work!” Ours has to be movement that is forward and outward – no matter what the personal cost or the danger.

I expect utter commitment to the work of the Gospel from myself and from the clergy with whom I work. For us, it is a matter of the utmost urgency. There is areal loss of personal value and of spiritual awareness happening in the huge urban sprawls, the “squatter camps”, around our cities. Not only that, but Islam is making massive strides into the youth of Africa – the church has to be on the march against such a concerted onslaught, fuelled as it is by millions upon millions of Saudi dollars.

Souls are being lost – and this while we are the ones responsible for this particular era of the Church. I speak of Africa as an arena of spiritual conflict, how presumptuous of me, for what of the UK and Europe – now openly called ‘post-Christian’ – or for that matter, the USA and Canada where the number of Muslims is growing exponentially. Did you know that in the UK, ten years ago the most popular boy’s name was Michael? It is now Mohammed!

The good Bishop exhorts us to courage in the face of the enemy, and that it is our responsibility to fight. The alternative is taking our responsibility for the loss and disappearance of Christianity in our lands.

Do we have a sufficiently ‘soldier attitude’ –or will we continue to play with liturgy or music or continue with our skirmishes for power and position?

I do believe that as Continuing Anglican Christians we are “fighters by nature”[unfortunately mostly with each other!] and that we have shown that we are prepared to stand up for what we believe, even at great personal cost in many instances. I have to say how much I appreciate the sacrifices made, the difficulties faced – but what is needed amongst us is a far more offensive mentality. The first Disciples faced the same shortages as we are doing, and yet they triumphed –should we not be able to do the same?

This is a Bishop in the heat of fervour and Christian zeal. I can only admire him. I find his apparent decision to break ranks with the rest of the TAC episcopate both questionable and disappointing.

In spite of proselytism from all sides, especially from certain Continuing Anglican bodies interested in acquiring property and real estate dishonestly, I believe that we will all remain determined in our mutual solidarity and loyalty to our Hierarchy and Archbishop-Primate. No one has the right to take that away from us, as our corporate nature as a Church was clearly written in the Letter signed in St Agatha’s and hand-delivered to the authorities in Rome in October 2007. It is my prayer and hope that Bishop Gill retains this unbreakable loyalty even though he took part in this meeting in Boston on his own initiative.

He is still a Bishop of the TAC, and we keep him in our prayers and esteem.


Archbishop denies move to drop claim

Our Archbishop has responded to an Adelaide newspaper report (it may be the one I linked to a couple of days ago with stories of “31″ priests being “ordained back into the Church”), and he has said in a public letter which I have read – “The position between the Catholic Archdiocese and me is unchanged. I have withdrawn nothing“.

The situation appears to be a stalemate and the Adelaide Archdiocese still seems to be determined to do in Archbishop Hepworth. I thought a more conciliatory spirit was inspiring Archbishop Wilson to be open to a negotiated solution.

I won’t say more than that because I find it difficult to judge which newspaper is being more objective. Is it anything more than an incomprehensible mess?

* * *

I now find it appropriate to reproduce this letter from Archbishop Hepworth to cover such an eventuality:

4th November 2011

Statement by Archbishop Hepworth

It has come to my attention that the Adelaide Advertiser may publish a major article tomorrow that implies that I have offered to withdraw my claims against Monsignor Dempsey.

I continue to work towards a decent outcome from the report I have made to the Catholic Church concerning the sexual abuse that forced me to flee the Church. I have devoted the last twenty years to the reconciliation of Anglicans and the Catholic Church, and the realisation of that work is now becoming visible in Australia.

The position between the Catholic Archdiocese and me is unchanged. I have withdrawn nothing.



Eleven-year old article on the TAC


Bishop Robert Crawley SSC explains why the Traditional Anglican Communion isn’t just “another Continuing Church”.

Serious speculation is in the air that the Anglican Communion is coming apart at the seams, the glue of comprehensiveness having lost its adhesive strength, being replaced by ECUSA’s Presiding Bishop’s “pluriformity of truth” which instead has repellent power. It is obvious to all close to the scene in USA that a major split has developed with the Singapore consecrations, which is likely to spread throughout the evangelical wing of ECUSA and become in effect yet another so-called ‘continuing church’ – this one under the auspices of Rwanda.

And, of course, the 24-year-old Continuing Church movement shows no sign of going away, in spite of bad press concerning its many branches and squabbles. One indefatigable writer constantly expounds on this, claiming there are 40 continuing churches with 108 bishops. There are actually THREE bodies in direct descent from St. Louis. The rest are very small units, and with all respect to their sincerity, which I do not question, sprang up from the ground in a typical USA ‘market-oriented’ way, spurred on by that very peculiar lust of the misguided to wear purple shirts and shovel hats. There are several movements in progress to heal rifts and move towards unity. Let’s hope.

There is also the urge to merge among groups of conservatives and orthodox groups within ECUSA, with a view to providing a ‘big tent’ to accommodate the old Anglican ideal of comprehensiveness, which would include the Continuing Churches.
This is the movement of “Realignment”. But there is another, quite different movement, which I call “Reconstruction”, centred on the activity and growth of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC).

In 1994 The TAC entered into a Concordat of agreement and cooperation with Forward in Faith at a meeting held in Fr. Kirk’s parish hall at Lewisham. This Concordat was later officially ratified by Forward in Faith’s General Assembly. I was one of the TAC Bishops present at this meeting, after which three TAC Bishops flew to Rome, where we had been invited to discuss the future of our movement and its possible relationships. We were cordially received. They already knew quite a lot about us, no doubt the reason for their invitation. They gave us sound advice (e.g. “don’t breed bishops like rabbits”!) and to keep in touch. We were encouraged. Let me be clear, the TAC has no ‘endgame’ to propose and Rome is not noted for pushing the “fast forward” button in these matters. Patience is the guiding principle, keeping our own house in order, and fostering local cooperation with other Catholic bodies. For example, in Western Canada we have a pleasant relationship with the Ukrainian Catholic Church – e.g. their Bishop attended our Synod and spoke at length to us, plus one of our priests speaks Ukrainian and assists them in many ways. I have been privileged to be invited to take part in services by the local Roman Catholic Bishop. Bishop John Hepworth of Australia (TAC) was the only Anglican Bishop invited by Cardinal Sin of the Philippines for his recent conference on the family. These are merely small indications that the TAC is taken seriously. Plans are preparing for a return visit to Rome.

It is my experience in England that there seems to be a fixation with USA and the detestable enormities of ECUSA’s ruling liberal elite, plus the proliferation of ‘continuing’ bodies. Can we please move onward and upward? The TAC now operates in 14 countries, with far, far greater numbers outside USA than in it.

Here are some examples of how the TAC has spread globally during the past few years:

Australia: Church schools now valued at $A15.5 million – will have ten thousand children in church schools within eight years. Bishop John Hepworth is effectively flying bishop of Australia, covering 80,000kms by car in 1999. He is publicly recognised as church leader, and is a member of Australia’s Constitutional Convention.

In the Torres Strait: TAC has taken over half the Anglican Diocese of North Queensland, clergy, churches and schools, and at the consecration of its bishops (mainstream Anglican, including Mercer, licensed in CofE, and Hepworth, consecrators included Hazlewood of Ballarat) there were three thousand people present who came in little boats and little planes across thousands of miles of Pacific. Now the dominant, majority church in the Strait.

Africa: So far, three operations – a very new one in Zambia (Lusaka) under Dean Pierre Dil; hard, tough missionary work, with 8 parishes, and ordinands in training. The second, and earliest, Province is in South Africa, led by a Canadian, Fr. Ball. The first work there began in Pietersburg with the rebuilding of a pro-Cathedral seating 1000 which replaced a chapel demolished under apartheid, plus a rapidly growing series of parishes to the south. Then just recently the old-established, traditionalist “Order of Ethiopia” (The Umzi Wasi Tiyopiya) forms the third Province of TAC in Africa. They have a minimum of 15,000 communicants; its pro-Cathedral in New Brighton seats 2000, and six new churches were built there in 1999 plus new parishes in Grahamstown, Capetown and East London. They are lively and they are growing. The current President of S. Africa, Mr. Thabo Nbeki, belongs to them. They own their own churches with presently some 20,000 active members. (These are not ‘parish rolls’ or ‘preacher’s counts’)”

India & Pakistan: TAC has 8 dioceses with 80,000 people.

TAC now has a bishop, Trevor Rhodes, in Colombia (South America) – the most dangerous place in the world. He’s a Yorkshireman (another one!) and a Benedictine monk. We have had long standing work in Guatemala, where Bishop Rodriguez does heroic work.


So, as ECUSA’s missionary work retreats, TAC becomes active in response to calls for help.

We foster positive relationships with orthodox Anglican Bishops and people, but being ‘recognized’ by Canterbury is not high on our list of priorities. However, we live in hope that eventually ‘realignment’ and ‘reconstruction’, like ‘mercy’ and ‘truth’, may kiss each other. We are not triumphalists who shrug off our roots or trash our progenitors.

What we are doing is steadily and surely recreating a global Anglicanism, because although many or most of the tares may be found growing in the USA, it is by no means clear that the opportunity to replace them with healthier plants will lie exclusively or even principally in that country. Part of the importance of the Singapore Event may lie in helping us all to see this possibility. If you really want to know what glues us together you must read our lucid foundational documents which have enabled us to shrug off ‘comprehensiveness’ and establish firm collegial discipline. Compromise is a word not found in our lexicon. What you see is what you get, and what you get is a vibrant, contemporary Anglican Catholicism rooted, not in Anglican Tradition but in Christian Tradition.

Bishop Robert Crawley is a retired, but extremely active, Bishop of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada which forms part of the Traditional Anglican Communion.


The latest from Australia

[Note by Fr Anthony - I have added the rest of the article for easy reference. I am particularly impressed about Mr Xenophon's description of Archbishop Hepworth : "Here was a person who I found to be a credible person, a decent person, who had suffered enormous pain because of continuing delays in the process. I just thought it was the sheer arrogance of the Adelaide Archdiocese." I thank Deborah Gyapong for bringing this article to our attention.]

* * *

The Senate chamber was almost empty yet the independent senator from South Australia knew his words would echo across the country, transforming the lives of two men and perhaps his own. His eyes glisten as he recalls, “It was the most difficult issue I have faced in 13 years in the Parliament. I regret that it had to come to this and I did it with a heavy heart.”

As Xenophon rose to speak in Canberra, two nervous priests were watching him via the internet in Adelaide. Monsignor Ian Dempsey, a Catholic priest for more than 40 years, had spent his day at a holiday home in a seaside suburb trying to pretend his world was unchanged. The previous night, Xenophon had given the church an ultimatum that unless it immediately stood down an Adelaide priest who had been accused of rape, he would use parliamentary privilege – which allows politicians to make statements in Parliament free from the threat of defamation – to name the priest the next day. As the hourglass slowly emptied, Dempsey read books, prayed to Mary MacKillop and sought solace in the spiritual. “I thought of the prophet Job, who lost everything and was a total outcast and just kept his faith in God and it all came good in the end,” says Dempsey. That evening the priest sought further solace in spirit, this time a stiff scotch whisky, as Xenophon told the Senate: “The people of Brighton parish have a right to know that for four years, allegations have been outstanding that priest Ian Dempsey raped [Archbishop] John Hepworth, and the church leadership has failed to make appropriate inquiries into this matter and that the church has failed to stand this priest down as a matter of course while inquiries take place.” Dempsey subsequently issued a vigorous denial of the allegations.

Across town, John Hepworth’s gut was churning with a mixture of relief and fear as he listened to Xenophon’s speech alone in his lounge room. Although the Archbishop and global leader of the 400,000-strong Traditional Anglican Communion had calmly rationalised his decision to go public with his 40-year-old rape claim in The Weekend Australian four days earlier, he was now struggling to cope with its ramifications. “I had a feeling of dread, almost panic, that what I had calmly decided to do in the weeks previous had suddenly become reality,” he says. “But I respected what Nick was doing.”

In the Senate, Xenophon ended his 10-minute speech with the words: “Sexual abuse flourishes because people keep secrets. As a representative of South Australia, this was a secret that – in good conscience – I did not feel I could or should keep.” Xenophon packed up his notes, walked back through a deserted Parliament to his office and made a quick call to Hepworth to discuss what he’d done. Then he waited for the storm.

WEEKS later, Xenophon is still coming to terms with the tempest he created that day. He sits in his Canberra office, pops a pill for his heart and talks with nervous energy about the moral dilemma that led the anti-pokies campaigner to take the gamble of his political life. His decision to name Dempsey before the church had completed its own investigation divided his parliamentary colleagues, outraged many Catholics and saw him accused by some of the most serious misuse of federal parliamentary privilege since 2002, when Bill Heffernan made sordid allegations against High Court Justice Michael Kirby. (Heffernan was later forced to apologise to Kirby.)

In the days that followed, Liberal senator Simon Birmingham accused Xenophon of acting as “police, prosecutor, judge and jury”. The then South Australian premier Mike Rann derided Xenophon’s decision as “the politics of smear and self-aggrandisement over social justice”. Labor senator Ursula Stephens even compared Xenophon’s actions to Jack in William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies; a character who exhibits the worst aspects of human nature when untempered by society’s norms. “I believe that what we saw in Senator Xenophon was his Jack-like seduction by the thrill of the hunt, the exhilaration of the naming.”

Yet Xenophon’s decision was also applauded by many. His office was flooded with phone calls and emails, the vast majority of which congratulated him for making a courageous moral stand against the church. Newspapers around the country were divided. Editorials in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald said he was wrong to name Dempsey, while The Advertiser in Adelaide and The Australian backed his decision.

“I’m not complaining about the criticism,” says Xenophon. “It was a difficult call and I think the system works in a sense because I have been criticised by a number of my colleagues, I have been criticised publicly and I have lost some of my previous supporters who say they will never support me again. But I felt I had no choice. To me my obligation was to John Hepworth. If those unique circumstances arose again [I would do it again],” he says.

So what were the circumstances and moral deliberations that drove Xenophon to act? Few people realise that Xenophon’s threat to name Dempsey was made barely 12 hours after he first learnt of the allegations. The senator first read about Hepworth’s rape claims on the morning of Monday, September 12, in an exclusive front-page story published in The Weekend Australian two days earlier. That story, by journalist Tess Livingstone, contained allegations that Hepworth, now 67, had been subject to systematic sexual abuse for 12 years from the age of 15 by two priests and a fellow seminary student.

After initially believing he would take the memory of the assaults to his grave, Hepworth had decided to go public because he was trying to reunite his Anglican breakaway group with Rome and says he could not lead the reunification bid “with integrity” while harbouring such a bitter personal secret. Hepworth had first raised the allegations with the church in 2007, and in March 2008 he provided the Adelaide Archdiocese with a detailed six-page statement of the alleged assaults. He said that two of the alleged rapists were now dead but a third priest, still alive, had abused him as a young adult while they walked on the beach one night. “He was stronger than me,” Hepworth had recalled. “Or perhaps I was just weary of it all … I remember cold, wet sand and forced sex.”

Xenophon was outraged by the story on several levels. He knew Hepworth well and could not imagine that the Archbishop could invent such dramatic and tragic allegations. Says Hepworth: “I’ve known Nick for 30 years, before he went into politics when he was a young lawyer deeply concerned with gambling and the effect it was having on young families.”

Hepworth was teaching politics at the University of Adelaide, and as he moved between political commentary and religion he kept in touch with Xenophon, the one-time lawyer who was elected to the South Australian parliament in 1997 and the Australian Senate in 2007. But Hepworth had never told Xenophon about the alleged abuse he had suffered as a young man. “I did not know any of this and I was shocked to read about it,” recalls Xenophon.

He then phoned Hepworth to discuss the newspaper story. “John went into a lot of background in addition to everything that was in The Weekend Australian, so I essentially dropped everything else on the Monday and worked on this issue,” says Xenophon. “Here was a person who I found to be a credible person, a decent person, who had suffered enormous pain because of continuing delays in the process. I just thought it was the sheer arrogance of the Adelaide Archdiocese.”

The senator was especially angered by the fact that, despite being first informed of the allegations in 2007, the Adelaide Archdiocese had still reached no conclusion or taken any action against the serving priest. (At the time of writing the investigation was ongoing and mediation with Hepworth had begun.) This contrasted with the independent process in Melbourne which took only 12 months to produce an apology to Hepworth in relation to his complaint against one of the three priests, the late Ronald Pickering. The Adelaide Archdiocese says that, despite being informed of Hepworth’s complaint in 2007, it did not receive a formal request from Hepworth for an investigation until February this year. “It was not until we received a letter from him in late February 2011 that Archbishop Hepworth indicated that he was ready for a process to commence and he thereby gave permission for an investigation to proceed,” Archbishop Philip Wilson said.

Xenophon dismisses the theory held by some that he was seized by this issue because of a personal antipathy towards religion. “I am not anti-religion, I am practising Greek Orthodox but I don’t talk about that much,” he says. “I have a view, and perhaps it is heretical, that just because a person subscribes to a religion doesn’t mean they are a better person than someone who doesn’t. I respect [religious] institutions but I thought the way this institution handled this was pretty appalling.”

Xenophon has a record of responding to issues of sexual abuse within the clergy. In 2003, when two Adelaide clergymen went public with claims of long-term sexual abuse by some Anglican church staff, Xenophon introduced a bill into the South Australian parliament requiring priests to notify authorities if they were told about acts of child abuse in the sanctity of a confessional.

Xenophon says he spoke with Hepworth repeatedly on the Monday as he contemplated whether he should intervene. “He was deeply affected when he rang me on Monday,” recalls Hepworth. By late afternoon, Xenophon had hatched the radical notion of using parliamentary privilege to try to force the church to stand Dempsey down or else he would name him. “I reached that moment after about the fourth phone call to John,” recalls Xenophon. “This is an institution that had been playing by its own rules for too long and it needed to be challenged. I thought what I was asking for was not unreasonable.”

On that Monday, Xenophon says he made two other phone calls on the issue, one to a senior person inside Hepworth’s church whom he will not name, and one to Christopher Pearson, a Catholic convert and a columnist for The Australian who knew Hepworth’s story. Says Pearson: “Nick Xenophon knew I was a friend of Archbishop Hepworth. He [Hepworth] and I have had our fallings out over the years but I accepted his bona fides in this matter. I neither encouraged nor discouraged [Xenophon] from naming Dempsey via parliamentary privilege.”

Xenophon then asked Hepworth what he thought about the idea of naming Dempsey if the church did not stand him down. Hepworth recalls the moment: “I said I would have to think about that because I have always been against too liberal a use of parliamentary privilege because I have seen it abused over the years. But I made it clear to him that it was a matter for his conscience and it was his decision ultimately.”

Xenophon knew that the naming of Dempsey would be seen by some of his colleagues as a grave abuse of parliamentary privilege. Bill Heffernan, who had used parliamentary privilege to attack Michael Kirby in 2002, says he understands the issues that would have weighed on Xenophon. “To do these things you’ve got to have the courage of your conviction and be prepared to wear the consequences,” says Heffernan.

Xenophon says he carefully weighed these matters, but did not contact any of his parliamentary colleagues for advice. “I know that if you use parliamentary privilege in a cavalier fashion then you diminish your privilege and you diminish yourself and your standing,” he says. “But you are also getting up in a chamber where you have been elected to represent people. Sometimes parliamentary privilege is about talking about failures of process and to me this is a failure of process where one man has been fundamentally let down.”

In fewer than 12 hours Xenophon had gone from knowing nothing about the sexual abuse claims to the point where he would be issuing an ultimatum to the Catholic Church which was likely to result in the naming of Ian Dempsey as Hepworth’s alleged rapist. Xenophon concedes that some might see his decision as being too hasty considering the gravity of the threat.

“A number of people have criticised me, saying that I acted too quickly, but it had been going on for four years,” he says. He refers to a 2005 book called Blink: the Power of Thinking Without Thinking, by Malcolm Gladwell, which describes how the mind works quickly and automatically from relatively little information. It argues that spontaneous decisions are often just as good, if not better, than carefully planned ones.

By late Monday afternoon, Xenophon had made up his mind to try to force the church into action. He penned his speech and that night told the Senate: “I will give the Catholic Church in South Australia until midday tomorrow to remove this priest from his post [or] I will name the priest in question here in the Senate.” Having made his threat, Xenophon went home to bed, knowing that the following day would be the longest of his political career.
DESPITE his self-appointed role in the Hepworth controversy and his career-defining campaign as an anti-pokies activist, Xenophon shies away from the description of himself as a moral campaigner. “I worry about using judgmental phrases like that. Using a moralistic argument makes me feel uncomfortable,” he says. “I think it just works on fairness; what is fair. I think you need to blend principles with pragmatism.” As an example he points to his decision in 2009 to block the Rudd government’s economic stimulus package for 24 hours until the government agreed to Xenophon’s demands for a better deal for the drought-stricken Murray-Darling basin. “That was a hell of a night,” he recalls. “The phones went into meltdown, we had to shut the [Adelaide] office down to protect staff because people were threatening to throw bricks through the windows.”

Since July 1, with the rise of the Greens in the Senate, Xenophon no longer holds the potential balance of power. He refers to himself as the “feather duster” and has a real feather duster in his office – a wry gift from a parliamentary colleague. He held an “unbalanced party” and smashed plates at a Greek restaurant in Canberra to mark the moment he lost the power to block legislation. Yet Xenophon remains a far more potent force than he cares to admit. He is arguably the most popular politician in South Australia and is a key player in a single issue that threatens the future of the Gillard Government – the push for a pre-commitment scheme for pokies to curb problem gambling.

Xenophon is working to further the cause alongside fellow independent Andrew Wilkie, who has threatened to withdraw support for the Government if it does not deliver on its promise to introduce a pre-commitment scheme by 2012. The two men, who barely knew each other before the last election, have since become good friends with a shared passion. Xenophon offered Wilkie his Parliament House office and advice as Wilkie was stitching up his pokies deal with Gillard after the 2010 election. “He did give me some good advice at the time,” says Wilkie. “I have a very high regard for Nick as a politician, as a human being and as a new friend.”

After more than three years in Federal Parliament, Xenophon has made an unusual cast of friends from all sides of politics. “Even though I see myself as pretty much in the centre [politically] and pragmatic on issues, I seem to admire the people who are true believers,” says Xenophon. He rattles off maverick independent Bob Katter, Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce, Labor minister Penny Wong, Labor leftie Doug Cameron and former Liberal Senator Nick Minchin as some of his favourites.

Despite losing the balance of power, Xenophon retains a punishing work schedule. He pursues, from a centre-left perspective, a dizzying range of causes ranging from the rights of small vegetable farmers to foreign investment in agricultural land and live cattle exports. His workaholic habits are such that his advisers fear for his health. “You are talking to someone who would have died if I did not have open heart surgery nine years ago,” says Xenophon. He pops pills each day to stop him blacking out, doesn’t drink alcohol or coffee and has had spinal surgery to fix a dodgy back. “The joke is the surgeons found a heart and a spine,” he says.

Xenophon cracks jokes repeatedly, often against himself. As we talk, there is only one topic which wipes the smile off his face – John Hepworth.

On the morning of Tuesday, September 13, after delivering his ultimatum to the church the previous evening, Xenophon sat in his office and watched the clock, hoping for a call from the Adelaide Archdiocese. In Adelaide, Dempsey received news of his threat via a phone call from the Archdiocese. “I was completely devastated by the thought that my name and reputation, which I have been most proud of as a priest, was going to be named and shamed in Federal Parliament,” he says. Across town, the church’s lawyers were frantically composing a letter to Xenophon urging him not to proceed with his threat.

The lawyers argued that the senator did not know the full story, saying that Hepworth had not committed to a full, formal investigation of his claims until February this year and that it would be a denial of natural justice to stand Dempsey down. But Xenophon saw the letter as being dismissive and another example of the church stalling the investigation. His determination was strengthened by a press release that morning from Cardinal George Pell, the country’s most senior Catholic, who urged the Adelaide Archdiocese to better explain the delay in acting upon the Hepworth complaint.

After reading the press release, Xenophon says he called Pell personally to discuss the issue. The senator chooses his words carefully about what he says was a private conversation. He maintains that Pell did not express a view and that they discussed only the issues of church process. “He [Pell] was not taking sides or anything like that but what he said was quite decent.”

Xenophon says he chose not to contact Dempsey directly to discuss Hepworth’s allegations because “to me it was a question of the failings in the church’s process over four years”. As the sun set on that Tuesday evening, Xenophon still harboured some hope that the church would take an 11th-hour decision to stand down Dempsey before the Senate adjourned. But the phone did not ring. Xenophon waited until the last speaking slot of the day until finally, at 9.38pm, he stood up in the chamber and began his speech.

An enraged Dempsey held a media conference the next day categorically denying the allegations. He wrote an open letter, later incorporated into Hansard as a retort to Xenophon, in which he accused him of having “shot the wounded”.

“Last Tuesday night you irreparably smeared and denigrated my reputation … you say you had a restless night – I have had many thanks to you,” Dempsey said. “You did not even bother to find out any matter relevant to this case except from the one source, John Hepworth. You refused the offers of the Archdiocese to give you a briefing. You never contacted me. You still went ahead to name and shame me.”

A month later, on October 15, Dempsey engaged Xenophon again, this time by email. “You state that you acted in good faith – this does not mean you were justified in acting in this way,” Dempsey wrote. “I am strengthened by the Dempsey family motto – Strengthened by God I shall not be conquered.”

Like many people outside Parliament, Xenophon’s political colleagues are divided on whether he made the right call. Bob Katter is full of praise for Xenophon as a person and as a politician but says his decision was “very ill-advised”, adding: “It was very out of character for him. It was just an aberration – everyone makes mistakes.”

But Wilkie has a different take. “On balance I think Nick made the right call,” he says. “I think both sides of the argument have merit but the church had long enough to fix this issue themselves and they have not done so. I hope no one would question Nick’s motives here because I know he would have been trying to do his best – he is a man of genuine goodwill.”

Xenophon gives a wry smile when he hears that some within the Adelaide Archdiocese believe his stand on Hepworth was a stunt designed to give him exposure and advance his political career. “I can say with absolute confidence that the safe thing to do politically would have been not to say anything,” he says. “But I don’t think it would have been the right thing to do. I think sometimes you’ve got to call it and say, ‘This is an institution which is breathtaking in its arrogance.’”

For some politicians a controversy such as this would see them retreat to safer ground in the future. But Xenophon does not seem to be cut from that cloth. As he told the Senate in his maiden speech of 2008: “If you want the Reader’s Digest version of my approach to this job, here it is: I would rather go down fighting than still be standing because I stayed silent.”


The End or a New Beginning?

An article appeared today in that newspaper under the title Archbishop Hepworth to return to Catholic fold as Indian, not chief. Most of the article is behind a paywall, but I have been given the text of the article. The article reports that our Archbishop “will be forced to relinquish his role as the primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion if he is to reconcile with the Catholic Church, after being informed he will only be accepted as a layperson”.

Most of you readers will say that this is a Dog bites Man article. We could see it coming. But over the past couple of years, I thought that the circumstances would warrant the Roman Curia admitting mitigating circumstances to make it possible for the Archbishop to be reinstated into the priesthood in the Ordinariate, even if only in a limited role given his history as a victim of sex abuse. We now have to note that there are no mitigating circumstances in canon law, and it is the ecclesiastical equivalent of a judge sentencing a man to be hanged by the neck until dead for stealing a loaf of bread. Indeed, this whole Ordinariate process is seen to be an impersonal machine. The Church is both medieval and modern – bravo!

On the other hand, the Complementary Norms attached to Anglicanorum coetibus are clear in (Article 6 §2):

Those who have been previously ordained in the Catholic Church and subsequently have become Anglicans, may not exercise sacred ministry in the Ordinariate. Anglican clergy who are in irregular marriage situations may not be accepted for Holy Orders in the Ordinariate.

It might have been helpful if we could have been informed right at the beginning that there were no mitigating circumstances whatsoever, and that this rule would be applied absolutely. But it was not. Some have been quick to judge Archbishop Hepworth for a faulty interpretation of the words of the texts and the way things worked out when negotiations were attempted.

The article informs us that:

Archbishop Hepworth has not yet decided whether he will accept the Catholic Church’s offer.

As one of his priests, and in a similar canonical situation (I have not received any letter, positive or negative, nor did I make any application independently of Archbishop Hepworth – nor do I care at this stage), I will wait and see what the Archbishop decides for his and our future. This final drop of the guillotine blade is certainly a blessing in disguise, and wise people tell us that when a door closes, a window opens elsewhere.

Please comment with sensitivity. Any “I told you so” or mocking comments will be refused or removed.


Adelaide persists in denying everything

This is most unnerving. Well, whatever is the truth, I don’t believe that Archbishop Hepworth would make all this stuff up. Still, I can only go by what I read in the press and wait and see if the bishops and priests in the TAC stand by him.

I refuse to draw any conclusions until at least after Christmas. Pray for me, and for all Archbishop Hepworth’s priests and faithful.


Asking you all to redouble your prayers

Over the past six and a half years, I have staunchly believed in obedience to one’s Bishop and loyalty to one’s Church. I believed that these were the conditions by which I would receive God’s blessing and the mission of the wider Church in my priestly life. My loyalty has not been blind or against my inner conscience, nor have I collaborated in any corruption.

I am too confused and bound by confidences that I can say very little at this point. I have a pastoral responsibility to the innocent Christian people who read this blog and look for information on which decisions can be made. Seismic shifts are taking place at this very moment in some local TAC Churches, and we begin to perceive a new key for understanding the ordinariate process. It is not the time for recriminations.

We know that the conditions of the Ordinariates are exactly what was written in the documents of November 2009. It is for us to weigh and consider whether this project concerns us, remembering that institutional Churches will remain separated and the dream of everyone being subject to the Roman Pontiff becomes remote. The Great Flaw of human sin remains, indicating that the cause of Christian Unity needs to be rethought and above all lived through the renewal of each one of us. I agree with Berdyaev in that all Church unity schemes based on agreements between bishops and authorities that are remote from the Church’s life on the ground are doomed to fail. The Holy Father’s ordinariate plan will assemble a number of clergy and faithful, but its success will depend on local Episcopal Conferences, as for the Latin Mass traditionalists under Summorum Pontificium.

For many of us, unity with Rome corporately or individually is not a possibility at this time or in the foreseeable future. We each have our responsibility before God and our consciences. We should all refrain from judging those who choose to go a different way from us. That is the story of human destiny and our response to our inner vocations.

I ask your prayers to discern the future. Perhaps the reactions that are coming out of the woodwork are healthy and bring hope for the future of the TAC and this particular Continuing Anglican way. There is hope through the gloom, but we have to be courageous, prayerful and humble in God’s hands.


Hepworth cries foul as church inquiry clears priest of rape

Hepworth cries foul as church inquiry clears priest of rape

Tess Livingstone and Rebecca Puddy

TRADITIONAL Anglican Communion leader John Hepworth has rubbished a Catholic Church inquiry that yesterday cleared Catholic priest Ian Dempsey of raping him nearly 40 years ago.

Archbishop Hepworth, who was first a Catholic and then an Anglican priest and is now the primate of the breakaway TAC, said no other victim of clerical abuse could feel safe after the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide’s handling of his complaints.

“No victim in the world will be safe after this type of attack,” he said. “Given that so many perpetrators of abuse were moved from diocese to diocese this process leaves the way open for findings in favour of victims in one diocese to be reconsidered by another diocese and overturned.

“I was told I would have to bear the costs of bringing witnesses before the inquiry, which I could not afford and I was also told that no witnesses would be indemnified.

“Adelaide’s process, as far as we can discover, was a retrial of the Melbourne process.”

Mr Hepworth had accused three priests of raping him.

The Melbourne process, conducted by the Archdiocese of Melbourne’s independent commissioner, Peter O’Callaghan QC, earlier this year resolved his complaint against the late Ronald Pickering of Melbourne. Mr Hepworth received $75,000 compensation and an apology on behalf of the archdiocese from Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart.

Mr O’Callaghan also accepted that Mr Hepworth suffered “many other instances of sexual abuse by members of the clergy in South Australia”.

But barrister Michael Abbott, QC, who conducted the inquiry for the Catholic Church in Adelaide, found there was “no substance to the allegations”.

South Australian independent senator Nick Xenophon, who named Monsignor Dempsey in parliament, said the process used by the Catholic Church was a “whitewash that was deeply flawed and lacked credibility”.

“The Adelaide Archdiocese of the Catholic Church should hang their head in shame,” Senator Xenophon said. “How can this be credible when no evidence was heard from the person that made the allegations?”

The church yesterday refused to release Mr Abbott’s 150-page report because of its “personal and sensitive nature”.

Adelaide’s Catholic Archbishop Philip Wilson also refused to be interviewed, but in a statement said: “Based on the findings made in the report, and the evidence upon which it is based, I intend to accept the findings in full.”

Monsignor Dempsey said that despite being cleared by the inquiry, the allegations, which had been raised in federal parliament, had taken a toll on his health.

He will remain on leave from his Adelaide parish of Brighton indefinitely.

“I’m not too sure when I might return. I’m feeling really, really devastated,” Monsignor Dempsey said.

“It’s very difficult to get up in front of a few hundred people celebrating the eucharist and knowing in your heart that there’s all these accusations against you.

“I’ve known from the beginning that it was all false but it had to be in some way stated and proved, which, thank God, Michael Abbott has done.”

Archbishop Hepworth said he did not take part in the inquiry “because I was not permitted to see the terms of reference or scope of the inquiry”.

He has sought to reunite his church with Rome, but was delivered a blow last week after the Catholic Church said he would only be welcomed back to the fold as a layman.


Archbishop Hepworth goes to the Police

Will it do any good? I remember a quote from that wonderful film The Mission:

If might is right, then I have no place in this world.


More from Australia and a lot of unanswered questions

Here’s a portion of the transcript that explains why Archbishop Hepworth objected to having Michael Abbott as the independent QC investigating his case.

The Catholic Church commissioned prominent QC Michael Abbott to investigate the case, and he has cleared Monsignor Dempsey after a three-month process. Archbishop Hepworth had refused to take part, despite repeated attempts by the QC’s solicitors to contact him.

JOHN HEPWORTH: We’ve engaged over the years in a fairly hostile way, and therefore I felt a great difficulty in trusting Mr Abbott with such an intimate thing in my life.

MICHAEL ABBOTT, LAWYER: I mean, I thought the only reason that was given that I’d cross-examined him in a case I’d forgotten about and thought he had, that was nothing to do with this matter. I thought the fact that he used that as an excuse was quite odd.

MATTHEW SMITH: Archbishop Hepworth said a non-Adelaide person should have led the investigation, and totally rejects Mr Abbott’s findings. The Catholic Church says it has previously encouraged him to go to the police and welcomes his decision.

What I don’t know is this: did Michael Abbott, QC, reject all of Hepworth’s claims? i.e. the ones against the two deceased priests Pickering and Stockdale and the abuse that began when he was a 15-year old seminarian in Adelaide?
Or only the claims against the monsignor in the Adelaide diocese who is still alive and vigorously denies having any sex with Archbishop Hepworth, consensual or otherwise.
Has this inquiry rejected the decision of the other independent inquiry by the QC in Melbourne, who found in Hepworth’s favor?


Some highlights of the continuing Australia saga

Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson, who appointed a Michael Abbott, queen’s counsel, to conduct an investigation into the claims, said, “Mr. Abbott found that there is no substance to the allegations made by Archbishop Hepworth.”

Archbishop Wilson said Nov. 28 that the lawyer’s conclusions were arrived at “after an examination of all of the relevant facts and circumstances.”

“Mr. Abbott’s report is a significant document of over 150 pages, including multiple annexures, and it reflects a very extensive and completely thorough investigation of every aspect of Archbishop Hepworth’s allegations,” he said.

“I am satisfied that Mr. Abbott examined all of the allegations raised by Archbishop Hepworth. He personally interviewed 29 witnesses, including many who were present at the time that the events were alleged to have occurred. He also examined a very large body of relevant documents, including those still in existence from the period dating back to the relevant period.”


Archbishop Hepworth said he made his accusations four years ago, so Archbishop Wilson said he also had Abbott examine the question of whether the archdiocese delayed responding to the abuse allegations.

“In this regard, Mr. Abbott found that there was no basis for any criticism or complaint about how the Archdiocese of Adelaide dealt with Archbishop Hepworth’s allegations. He found that the matter was handled in a completely appropriate and professional way, in accordance with proper procedures and sensitivity towards Archbishop Hepworth,” Archbishop Wilson said.

Most interesting.

Mr Abbott yesterday defended the credibility of his inquiry. “Archbishop Hepworth chose not to make any written statement; he chose not to put anything in writing; he chose not to give me any list of witnesses to contact; he chose not to participate — full stop,” he told The Australian.

“On the evidence that I had, I think my findings are very comprehensive.”

Article containing a video of Archbishop Hepworth

Archbishop Hepworth said a non-Adelaide person should have led the investigation, and totally rejects Mr Abbott’s findings. The Catholic Church says it has previously encouraged him to go to the police and welcomes his decision.

Inquiry labelled a farce by Senator Xenophon, ABC Radio Transcript (Main Forum)

TONY EASTLEY: The Catholic Church has cleared one of its priests over allegations that he raped a man in Adelaide almost 40 years ago.

However the church’s inquiry has been attacked by a high profile supporter of the alleged victim, Archbishop John Hepworth, who now leads the breakaway Anglican Communion.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon, who raised the issue in Parliament, says the process was a farce and denied Archbishop Hepworth natural justice.

Simon Santow reports.

SIMON SANTOW: Senator Nick Xenophon used parliamentary privilege in September to name an Adelaide priest, Monsignor Ian Dempsey, as the alleged perpetrator of a sexual assault against John Hepworth almost four decades ago.

Critics accused the Senator of abusing his position and of denying the priest natural justice.

Now the boot’s on the other foot.

NICK XENOPHON: Well how can you say that this inquiry was in any way fair, in any way afforded John Hepworth natural justice, when John Hepworth wasn’t even interviewed by the Catholic Church. That John Hepworth raised issues of procedural fairness, he raised issues of apprehended bias. All those issues were fundamentally ignored by the Catholic Church in South Australia.

He couldn’t be part of this inquiry process because of some serious flaws or concerns as to serious flaws in that process.

SIMON SANTOW: So he wasn’t excluded from the inquiry, he excluded himself?

NICK XENOPHON: Look, this inquiry was a farce.

Let’s put this in perspective. John Hepworth went to the Church in good faith over four years ago with serious allegations. It’s only been since the beginning of this year that the Church has begun to look at it. They haven’t even interviewed him.

SIMON SANTOW: Senator Xenophon says his friend is upset that the Church has cleared the priest of any wrongdoing.

NICK XENOPHON: Well I spoke to John Hepworth last night, he was quite gutted, quite frankly, in terms of the way that this was treated. I don’t think it would have come as a great surprise to him, but the gall of the hierarchy of the Adelaide archdiocese in treating his case in this way, and then saying that they’ve conducted a rigorous investigation.

SIMON SANTOW: He’s not the only one distraught. For his part Monsignor Dempsey, in a statement, spoke of his relief that the investigation had cleared him of ‘false accusations’.

IAN DEMPSEY (voiceover): I have prayed that truth and justice would eventually prevail. From the beginning I have categorically denied the accusations. But even though I know of my own innocence it has been a very trying and difficulty period of my life.

SIMON SANTOW: The Adelaide Archdiocese turned to a senior barrister, Michael Abbott QC, to conduct the inquiry.

But despite having only limited co-operation from John Hepworth, he was confident that the allegations before him had no basis.

MICHAEL ABBOTT: I am able to say that I believe that the conclusions that I came to are justified. And I have no problem saying that. I’ve spent a lot of time on this, in excess of 12 weeks. We’ve interviewed all these witnesses, we’ve looked at all these records, we’ve endeavoured to tease and examine all the claims and allegations that Archbishop Hepworth has made.

Obviously I would have wanted him to participate, but the fact that he’s now saying ‘I haven’t participated, therefore the investigation’s flawed’, to me is. Well, I don’t agree with that.

TONY EASTLEY: Adelaide Barrister, Michael Abbott QC, ending Simon Santow’s story.