Has Archbishop John Hepworth lost his mind?!
Peter Slipper’s ambition to serve as a parish priest could still be realised, despite the sex and fraud scandals engulfing him, the leader of Australia’s Traditional Anglican Communion affirmed yesterday.
The independent MP, who has stood aside as Speaker while allegations of abusing public entitlements are tested, is already an ordained priest in Australia’s breakaway conservative Anglican movement and acts as “chancellor” — a senior legal adviser — to primate John Hepworth and his pro-Rome synod.
Speaking from Adelaide, Archbishop Hepworth yesterday reaffirmed he would ensure that Mr Slipper stood aside from that role until allegations of sexual harassment were resolved. But he also described Mr Slipper as a devout Christian of “enormous ability” and said he was welcome to train for a public role in the church, including that of parish priest, if he was cleared of the complaint.
“He and I have discussed his becoming a parish priest, but I judged it appropriate that he shouldn’t have a public ministry while he is in the parliament,” he told The Australian. “When he leaves the parliament, one way or another, if he is prepared to undertake the necessary additional training and preparation then that would be appropriate if he wished to take a public role.”
Archbishop Hepworth said he was more concerned about the allegations of sexual misconduct than the misuse of public funds, since they go to questions of “moral failings”. He said he had personally trained Mr Slipper ahead of his ordination as an Anglican Catholic priest — permitting him to lead mass in private — and had come to recognise him as a strong and consistent campaigner on conservative moral issues who stood apart from the bulk of “monochrome” political figures.
“Peter’s speeches and his voting record are remarkably consistent when it comes to moral issues. That includes abortion, euthanasia and stem-cell research,” he said of the member for Fisher.
“He’s also done great work with the Dalai Lama on promoting religious tolerance.
“That’s the image I want to convey of Peter, and it’s not the image that is often aired publicly.”
He said standing aside from public roles, such as Speaker and church chancellor, was common practice for clerics and public officials facing serious accusations, and the move should not be read as an admission of guilt.
Archbishop Hepworth said he had heard rumours surrounding Mr Slipper, but had made investigations to satisfy himself that they were without merit.
“I’ve watched him in both public and private life and I’ve watched because I’ve been part of it, the relationship with his wife and his children, which have been close . . . and so this comes to me as a shock and a surprise,” he told Sky News.
This man, again, is opening up the Church to scandal. He should move against Slipper and quickly so. That is standard protocol. Once an outcome has been determined – both civilly and ecclesiastically - then, and only then, can (and should) any future standing be discussed.
And what on earth is a ‘pro-Rome synod’ now?! This self-absorbed arrogance is simply beyond Christian comprehension.
Contrary to the headline in The Australian, he is not Primate.