17 June 2024

Survivor group welcomes Hollingworth decision to stand aside

Former Archbishop of Brisbane Peter Hollingworth. Picture: file.

Jenan Taylor, Elspeth Kernebone

23 May 2023


The head of an abuse survivor support group has welcomed the former Archbishop of Brisbane’s decision to give up his Permission to Officiate.

Blue Knot Foundation president and executive director Cathy Kezelman said she was pleased that Peter Hollingworth had chosen to stand aside from his ministry functions.

“It’s taken a long time, and it would have been good to see him take full accountability much earlier, and also to see the professional standards body reach this conclusion itself,” Dr Kezelman said.

She said she believed that there were survivors who wanted to appeal the findings of the tribunal.

Dr Kezelman said that appeal still needed to go ahead, and that it would be good if that resulted in consistent accountability in the Professional Standards Board’s decisions.

Friday 12 May

Former Archbishop of Brisbane Peter Hollingworth has announced he will return his Permission to Officiate, after the Diocese of Melbourne’s Professional Standards Board determined he had committed misconduct in seven of 10 complaints made against him.

The board also determined that Dr Hollingworth could continue in the positions of ministry he held at that point.

Dr Hollingworth said in a statement on May 12 that he was concerned his continuing to exercise priestly functions as a bishop was a cause of pain to survivors, saying he wanted to end distress to them and division within the church.

Read more: Board recommends apologies, but Hollingworth permitted to continue in ministries

He said he had told the Archbishop of Melbourne that he would be returning his permission to officiate.

In April the Professional Standards Board found that in about late 1993 and in 1998 Dr Hollingworth without proper justification permitted John Elliot to remain in ministry, when he knew Elliot had sexually assaulted children and that he posed a risk to the safety and wellbeing of children. 

It determined that he had committed misconduct by in about 1995 permitting Donald Shearman, who he knew had sexually assaulted a child, to retain his permission to officiate, among other findings.

In his May 12 statement, Dr Hollingworth said as Archbishop of Brisbane from 1990 to 2001 he was ill-equipped to deal with the child abuse issue. He said he did not commit a crime, and did not cover up sexual abuse, nor was he an abuser.

“Like some other church people, [I] was too defensive of the church on the advice of lawyers and insurers. I say that as a matter of context, not as an excuse. I have lived with my failures every day since,” he said.

“It is more than 20 years since allegations against me were first made. There have been five separate inquiries, including the five-year inquiry by the PSB. They have occupied countless time, energy, emotion and expense for many people.

“Many times I have acknowledged that I made mistakes and issued apologies. My regrets have become even more profound over the years, as we have all gained a better understanding of the impact of child sexual abuse through the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse and other investigations.”

Archbishop of Melbourne Philip Freier said he would seek advice as to the effect of the resignation of Permission to Officiate on the implementation of the Professional Standards Board determination.

Dr Freier said he continued to pray for all who had been involved in recent public debate about Dr Hollingworth’s standing within the church.

“Please pray for healing and the restoration of wholeness for all who have survived child sexual abuse,” he said.

“Pray too for those people whose life experience was represented in the recent considerations of the Professional Standards Board and the public discussions around its determination.”

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