Posted by: jkirkby8712 | September 14, 2011

Tuesday, 13th September 2011 – quiet day, mild headache, and unpleasant priestly revelations!!

During the day, I leant that one of the independent Senators in the Australian Senate was intending to use the protection of Parliamentary Privilege tonight, and name a sitting Priest who had been accused of rape, some 50 years earlier.  That evening, I turned on the radio, and listened to the broadcast of proceedings from Parliament House in Canberra. True to his word, in the last speech of the night, the senator in question carried out his promise.  I wrote on Face Book that ‘  Under Parliamentary Privilege, Independent Senator Nick from Sth Australia has just named, in the Senate, the senior Catholic Priest in SA believed guilty of serious sexual offences against younger members of the church many years ago!! Brave man, or foolish!! Did it because the Church, has not acted as it should have, to resolve the issue. Big repercussions likely’

A couple of responses came from Ruth.. ‘I think John Hepworth himself doubted this would see real justice done for anyone- what happened to ‘innocent until proven guilty’?’

I responded with:  ‘Interesting, that while he couldn’t stop the senator from speaking out, the Senate President cautioned him about the likely consequences and affects on other people of making his statement, a warning I guess, which Nick X acknowledged, but  proceeded anyway. I think he made the wrong choice – while the church, wrongly, hadn’t acted for four years since the allegations were made, I tend to agree with your comment, Ruth’.

From Ruth again: – ‘It seems the church has been neglectful- it makes me so angry! But yes, I still can’t agree with Nick Xenophon’s actions’.  Someone else added later a comment which I didn’t attach much seriousness to, in line with the general nature of the way this person generally responds to most things – he said ‘I sometimes wonder why they don’t just castrate all catholic priests? It’s not like they need their testicles for anything anyway and it would ensure that these acts aren’t perpetrated in the first place’  Rather a crude reaction! The reply that comment generated was that:-  ‘There may be a tiny human rights issue there! 🙂 It also would not stop other abuses of power within such institutions and this will always happen if institutions are run like they are a ‘ law unto themselves’..

What this was all about is best summed in this media report of the event.

“Independent senator Nick Xenophon has used parliamentary privilege to name a priest accused of raping Adelaide-based Anglican Archbishop John Hepworth about 50 years ago. Senator Xenophon said he was duty bound to name the alleged offender as Monsignor Ian Dempsey, who has been the priest at Brighton parish in Adelaide since 2000. The South Australian senator overnight set the Archdiocese of Adelaide an ultimatum – stand down the priest by midday on Tuesday or he would name him in the Senate.

The Catholic Church refused to stand down the priest, who denies the allegations. The archdiocese’s lawyers advised Senator Xenophon the church was unable to stand down the priest because of requirements under “canon law” and “procedural fairness”. A defiant Senator Xenophon said the decision left him with “no choice”.  Speaking under parliamentary privilege on Tuesday night, Senator Xenophon said he did not provide the information lightly.  “The allegations are serious. They are made by a man with credibility,” he said.  “The people of the Brighton parish have a right to know that for four years, allegations have been outstanding that priest Ian Dempsey raped John Hepworth and church leadership has failed to make appropriate inquiries into this matter.”

Senator Xenophon said the most important question he had asked himself while deliberating on whether to name the priest was how he would feel if his family were members of that church. “Would I believe I had the right to know?” he said. “Would I be angry that a few people knew that serious allegations had been made but they did nothing and said nothing?” Senator Xenophon said that as a former lawyer he believed strongly in the presumption of innocence and emphasised that the claims were allegations. Archbishop Hepworth has reportedly said he would rather the priest be stood down than be named.  However, Senator Xenophon said given the church’s refusal to put the priest on administrative leave pending an investigation, he had to act.

Archbishop Hepworth, 67, revealed at the weekend he was the victim of violent rapes at the hands of two priests and a trainee priest beginning in 1960, when he was 15.  At the time Archbishop Hepworth, who is now the primate of the splinter group Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) in Adelaide, was studying to be a priest at a seminary.  Archbishop Hepworth has said he broke away from the Catholic Church because of the 12 years of abuse. Claims against dead priests Ronald Pickering and John Stockdale were settled in Melbourne. But claims relating to the third priest were not resolved. Senator Xenophon said the Adelaide Catholic diocese had taken too long to satisfactorily resolve the serious allegations first aired four years ago.  A spokeswoman for the South Australian Catholic Church said it was appalled the senator named the priest, “despite being made fully aware of the extremely sensitive and highly complex background to this matter”. “We have grave concerns. This is grossly unjust and unfair,” she said.  “Now we just have to consider what the implications are and the impact on due process.” She said the archdiocese has been in touch with the priest. The priest named in parliament formerly served as the vicar-general of the Archdiocese of Adelaide for five years.  According to the Brighton Catholic parish’s website, after ordination in 1969, he spent 20 years as a chaplain in the Royal Australian Navy.

I suppose that in many ways, the very nature of that subject could leave one with the headache that I hinted at in the title of this blog. But in reality, I think it was due to other causes!  And as if that was not enough, I was kept awake through part of the night, by of all things, a ‘toothache’!!!  There have been a couple of those ‘appendages’ worrying me off and on over recent weeks – I guess a hint that I should do something about them!!

Rugby World Cup update:  a couple of results from Sunday [11th September], that I omitted to refer to, although we did talk about Australia’s first game during that day’s note, but I don’t think I mentioned the final score!!

Australia 32 defeated Italy 6

Ireland 22 defeated United States 10

South Africa 17  [the title holders from 2007] defeated Wales  16


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