ADELAIDE, Australia – There is clearly no basis as to the claims of an Anglican bishop’s alleged claims of rape pertaining to a Catholic priest. This is being affirmed by a lawyer appointed by the church after a thorough investigation regarding the issue.
Archbishop John Hepworth, the primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion, claimed last September that a Catholic priest allegedly raped him more than 40 years ago when Hepworth was still a young Catholic priest. He has also mentioned that he had been a victim of two other priests who are now already dead.
Michael Abbott, Queen’s Counsel, who had been appointed by Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson, was to conduct an investigation into the allegations. Archbishop Philip Wilson stated, “Mr. Abbott found that there is no substance to the allegations made by Archbishop Hepworth.”
Archbishop Wilson stated on November 28 that Mr. Abbott arrived at a conclusion wherein “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,” the archbishop stated.
“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.”
The archbishop mentioned that he did not wish to announce the report to the public for a number of reasons, “not the least of which is that it contains significant personal and sensitive information which all parties are entitled to have respected.”
The identity of the priest, Msgr. Ian Dempsey, has been known only when Sen. Nick Xenophon mentioned him in Parliament, despite of requests by the archdiocese to stop it because of a pending investigation.
“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 also added.
Archbishop Hepworth refused to participate in the inquiry, saying that “we have not been given enough information to have confidence in it and we have objected to Abbott doing it on substantial grounds.”
Father Brian Lucas, secretary of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, stated that the whole situation would not disturb the plans for the establishment of an Anglican Ordinariate in Australia.
“The document from the pope (‘Anglicanorum coetibus’) setting out the arrangements for the ordinariate for former Anglicans is very clear, that a former Catholic priest cannot join the ordinariate as a priest or bishop,” Father Lucas mentioned to The Catholic Weekly, a Sydney archdiocesan newspaper.
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