Church of England Disinvests from NewsCorp

The Church of England has pulled its £1.9m investment from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation in a protest over its handling of the News of the World phone hacking scandal.

The Telegraph has the details.



Scandal, Still More…

Why is it when the words ‘scandal’ and ‘Anglican’ pop-up together in the news, you can be sure it’s your regular customers? (And don’t blame me, I don’t make the news.)

Membership in the Episcopal Church continues to slide amidst wrangling over gay bishops, women bishops, and purse-string scandals, the most recent debacle erupting in the high desert sands of New Mexico.

In Albuquerque the Cathedral Church of St. John was seen headed toward eventual bankruptcy as its members deserted to other less-ornate, smaller Episcopal churches. Then the cathedral accountant sounded an alarm. In effect, he accused the church leadership of complacency in the sloppy way the cathedral was run. Immediately the area’s bishop rushed to quash the bad mouthing with an apparent cover-up.

Membership had spiraled down, a decline proportionately similar to the national loss in recent decades. A 2010 national headcount revealed 1,951,907 defectors from what had been 3.6 million members, church records show. Membership in 2011 held at 2,006,343, down 2.48 percent, according to the National Council of Churches.

According to disciplinary records of both faiths, bishops for both the Episcopal and Roman Catholic churches in the United States do have a record of covering up scandals, at least temporarily. Of reported cases, Catholic bishops tend to hide sexual abuse. Episcopal bishops tend to offer a mixed bag, according to published cases.

This most recent attempt to hide wrong doing has come with the muted ferocity of a mountain thunderstorm in the peaceful valley of the Rio Grande, where the largest wildfires in New Mexico history have roared practically unabated for months.

Under a blanket of smoke and ashes, Bishop Michael L. Vono has spent months digging into allegations that the dean of his territorial cathedral misused Sunday collection money from parishioners for his personal enjoyment, including lots of expensive wine, which he was accused of imbibing to the extreme…

You can read more about this here. And then a little further on (and closer home):

… The back and forth of wrong-doing charges emerged in the midst of the on-going worldwide conflict among Episcopalians about gays, women bishops, and same-sex marriage. About 400,000 former parishioners have split to what’s called the Traditional Anglican Communion formed in 1991. Reuters reports only about 2,500 members in the United States; the rest are in India and African nations. But all is not peaceful on that front either, according to London-based The Guardian.

The former Archbishop of that same Traditional Anglican Communion, John Hepworth has been served papers alleging that he misappropriated church funds while he was the Archbishop in Australia. Hepworth had sought, in vain, acceptance into the Roman Catholic Church via the Pope’s invitation. Hepworth had applied for and been rejected for the Pope’s open offer to traditionalist Anglicans. At one time Hepworth had claimed that he had been raped by three Roman Catholic priests four decades ago. The accusation apparently didn’t sit well in Rome.

The Pope has not been “hands off” all traditionalist Anglicans, however, according to The Guardian. In addition to setting up ex-bishop Steenson in the United States to recruit disaffected Episcopalians, the Pope has, according to The Guardian, donated $250,000 to a similar effort in Great Britain. But that effort so far has yielded only 1,200 members, including 60 priests. The Guardian speculated that number may change when the Church of England welcomes women bishops. In the United States, the head of the Episcopal Church is a woman, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. She’s on record as not wanting to discuss membership numbers; “I don’t play the numbers game,” she has said.

Meanwhile, quiet negotiations continue between the disaffected traditionalist Anglicans and the gay and women bishops supporters in the church, seeking a compromise…

On that sad note, it’s 23:39 so I’m off to bed… Do feel free to comment while I enjoy that naturally recurring state of suspended consciousness and inactivity, far far removed from all the confabulation.



Peter Slipper Could Still Be Parish Priest (!) – Archbishop John Hepworth

[Background here and here]

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.



Archbishop John Hepworth: The Heated Sexual Abuse Dispute Continues

Catholic Culture has news on the indefatigable ignominy:

A heated dispute continues in Australia about the sexual-abuse charges lodged by Anglican Archbishop John Hepworth.

  • Msgr. Ian Dempsey, who was named by Senator Nick Xenophon as one of Hepworth’s molesters, has written to parishioners insisting that he is innocent and reporting that his health has suffered because of the public charges. Those who know him, he wrote, “know I am incapable of perpetrating the false accusations made against me.” Msgr. Dempsey has written to Xenophon as well, complaining that the lawmaker abused his senatorial privilege to make the accusation.
  • The Adelaide archdiocese says that Archbishop Hepworth declined to authorize an investigation when he first reported the sexual abuse in 2007. The archbishop’s approval only came—and thus the archdiocesan investigation began—early this year, officials claim. Representatives of the Adelaide archdiocese say that they repeatedly asked Hepworth to approve an inquiry. The Melbourne archdiocese had already begun an investigation, found merit in Hepworth’s charges, and offered a formal apology and financial settlement—leaving questions as to why one archdiocese pursued the matter, while the other claimed to lack the necessary authorization to do so.
  • Archbishop Hepworth has announced that if the Adelaide archdiocese does not take action on his charges this week, he will take his complaint to police.
  • The Anglican archbishop has made the stunning revelation that since his charges were made public last week, “Nobody from the Church has been in touch with me…not even through a third party.” The failure of Catholic Church officials to speak directly with Archbishop Hepworth is remarkable, particularly in light of the fact that he has been a prominent leader among the Anglicans seeking to enter the Catholic Church.

Source(s): these links will take you to other sites, in a new window.


Monsignor Ian Dempsey Denies Sexually Abusing Archbishop John Hepworth

The Australian reports:

A Catholic priest has categorically denied raping Adelaide Archbishop of the Traditional Anglican Communion John Hepworth decades ago.

Speaking under parliamentary privilege, independent senator for South Australia Nick Xenophon on Tuesday named the priest as Monsignor Ian Dempsey, a parish priest in the seaside suburb of Brighton.

Monsignor Dempsey made a statement at his Brighton Catholic parish rectory today. He was joined by members of the parish council and the parishioners.

“On legal advice, I can only make a short statement and I won’t be answering any questions,” Monsignor Dempsey said.

“I am aware of John Hepworth’s unsubstantiated allegations against me through an inquiry instigated by the Archbishop.

“I have made it clear in writing to the inquiry that I categorically deny the allegations, which I note are said to relate to events that occured some 45 years ago and have nothing at all to do with underage people.”

He further denied the allegations and said he was going on annual leave from this weekend for one month.

Senator Xenophon had told the Senate there were allegations that Monsignor Dempsey had raped John Hepworth more than 40 years ago.Earlier, Senator Nick Xenophon said he had been swamped with calls, some from victims of abuse, after naming Monsignor Dempsey.

“We’ve been inundated with calls this morning and emails,” he told Macquarie radio.

The Catholic Church needed to ensure transparency, he said.

“It’s very interesting that Cardinal Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, has actually said today that that the Catholic Churches of Australia need to have a transparent process the public have confidence in and it’s been my concern,” Senator Xenophon said.

“In other cases where there are serious accusations and of course there is a presumption of innocence – priests are stood down administratively so there can be an appropriate investigation.

“That hasn’t happened in this case (for) various reasons given by the churches of Australia, which I think are unsatisfactory.”

Asked what he thought of Bishop Christopher Saunders labelling his naming of the priest a stunt, he said that was “objectionable” and that this was a serious matter.

He called for the people who had contacted him about their experiences of sexual abuse to go to the police.

But some coalition senators have criticised the move.

Liberal Simon Birmingham said parliamentary privilege should be used “cautiously, judiciously, sparingly”.

“It’s not the role of politicians to play police, prosecutor, judge and jury,” he told reporters.

Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce said using parliamentary privilege circumvented rights and liberties.

“We’ve got to make sure that everybody has got a certain presumption of innocence until proven otherwise,” he said.

“If you have got the story wrong, then you’ve done an incredible injustice to the person.”

A senior Catholic figure has defended the church’s handling of the matter.

The general secretary of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Brian Lucas, said Senator Xenophon had failed to make clear the allegations did not involve children.

They related to a claim involving two priests in their late 20s some 40 or so years ago, Father Lucas said.

The church had made the right call in not standing down the priest.

“For someone to stand down … on the basis of no perceived risk to children doesn’t seem at all necessary,” he said.

Father Lucas said Archbishop Hepworth should have gone to authorities with his claims.

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.

Claims against dead priests Ronald Pickering and John Stockdale were settled in Melbourne.

Monsignor Ian Dempsey’s statement can be watched on video here.

What a mess!


Archbishop Philip Wilson on Archbishop Hepworth’s Abuse Allegations

The Archbishop of Adelaide, Philip Wilson, has released a statement on the allegation that Monsignor Ian Dempsey raped the now TAC Primate, Archbishop John Hepworth over forty years ago:



I wish to begin my statement by reaffirming my longstanding commitment to dealing with allegations of abuse within the Church with the utmost seriousness and with proper process.

My years as a bishop of the Church have been marked by my determination to always deal with allegations of abuse with compassion, justice and fairness, being highly sensitive to the needs of victims and applying all the rules of natural justice for those accused.

I stand on my record as a bishop in the way I have responded to issues of abuse in the Church.

Regarding Archbishop Hepworth, let me say that from the moment he came to present his allegations of abuse to the Church he has been responded to with the utmost care and sensitivity.

Monsignor Cappo who acts on my behalf has met with Archbishop Hepworth on multiple occasions since 2007. In fact at least 8 meetings have been held, all of lengthy duration.

Monsignor Cappo gave me a full briefing of each meeting, immediately following his interviews with Archbishop Hepworth.

On my behalf Monsignor Cappo urged Archbishop Hepworth, at the end of each meeting, to give his permission to proceed with an investigation in the allegations. On each occasion Archbishop Hepworth declined, indicating that he was not in a proper emotional state to deal with an investigation.

Sensitive as we must be to the needs of complainants, we adhered to his request. He was also informed that if he was alleging any form of abuse, including rape, that this is a criminal allegation and he should go to the police.

He has consistently declined to do so but I add that we have not been critical of him about this. We understand only too well the difficulty associated with making these types of decisions.

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.

I then authorized an investigation to commence immediately and diocesan solicitors (who were already involved) have assisted in that process.

This process is well under way and we are currently waiting to speak with the priest accused, to obtain his detailed response to the allegations. He has already categorically denied the allegations.

To claim that the Archdiocese of Adelaide has not responded properly to this allegation or has delayed or mishandled this complaint by Archbishop Hepworth is totally wrong and I completely reject that assertion as without foundation.

On the contrary, we have shown Archbishop Hepworth every courtesy, sensitivity and care in the process. I am fully supportive of the manner in which Monsignor Cappo has given priority to this matter and the sensitive way in which he has dealt with it.

In fact, he would often talk to me about the need to initiate further contact with Archbishop Hepworth to ensure that a proper dialogue was occurring with him and he has shown great compassion for Archbishop Hepworth. Archbishop Hepworth himself has acknowledged as much on multiple occasions.

In terms of the process, I would expect that in the next 2-3 months all the interviewing of people would have taken place.

However, this is subject only to our being furnished with a list of other persons who we have asked Archbishop Hepworth to inform us might be in a position to assist with our investigations. To date we have not received such a list from him.

It is my intention to then have Mr Michael Abbott QC to become involved in the process and assess all the evidence and documentation and to give me his opinion in law, of the allegation and the response by the priest concerned.

The question has been asked as to why I have not stood the priest aside from his ministry during this investigation. My answer is very clear. Priests are normally stood aside from their ministry when accusations of child sexual abuse are made or where there is otherwise any risk posed by that priest’s continued ministry.

In such cases this decision is clear and made as a matter of course. In this case, however, we are not talking about child sexual abuse. Despite the unfortunate suggestions made to the contrary in the past few days, the allegations refer to when Archbishop Hepworth was in his 20s.

That is over forty years ago. And considering the presumption of innocence and the good standing of the priest under investigation, I would not stand a priest down in these circumstances.

I have obtained advice about this, and in trying to balance the interests of all parties concerned, having regard to how old the allegations are, I have concluded it is not necessary for the priest to be stood down.

I am deeply distressed that Senator Xenophon has named the priest in Parliament.

There was no need for him to do so, especially when this would appear not to have been Archbishop Hepworth’s wish. There have never been any suggestion of danger to people in the parish having the priest present, and the investigation is well underway.

The damage to the priest’s reputation is obvious and severe and – in my opinion – this serves to undermine the presumption of innocence which all of us are entitled to enjoy.

Aside from that the distress to the parish is enormous. What has happened is unfair and unjust.

I was shocked that the Senator was not even prepared to sit down and talk to our legal advisers about the matter when the invitation was extended to him. Aside from anything else, I think it is also important to remember that these matters cannot but have had a significant impact on Archbishop Hepworth himself.

However, my concern now is to ensure the investigation continues, that it remains transparent and independent and that it is brought to a speedy conclusion in a normal and appropriate way.

That is what occurred to date and I pray that the events of the past few days will not interfere with that process.

Archbishop Hepworth has also spoken to Monsignor Cappo at length about the Traditional Anglican Communion and possibilities for its future relationship with the Catholic Church.

I have been resolute in taking those issues to the appropriate authorities in Rome and those discussions are ongoing.

I am very mindful of Archbishop Hepworth’s desire to reconcile with the Catholic Church.

From my perspective, from Monsignor Cappo’s perspective and in accordance with our legal advice, we have given Archbishop Hepworth’s allegations priority.

I was very relieved when Archbishop Hepworth finally able to consider he was ready to agree to the process beginning in February of this year.

I again repeat, to accuse me and the Archdiocese of not handling this matter with priority and proper process is wrong and I reject such comments.

I conclude by saying that I would have preferred that there was no need for me to speak today about such personal and complex matters, but in the light of all of the mis-statement surrounding the issue, I considered fairness to those involved in the process required me to make these things clear.

Having said this, I trust it is now clear why I would not be in any position to make any further statement concerning the issue until the investigation is completed. Thank you.


Monsignor Ian Dempsey Accused of Raping TAC Primate Archbishop John Hepworth

Monsignor Ian Dempsey

The Age calls it as it currently stands:

A former head Catholic chaplain of the navy,  Ian Dempsey,  was named in the  Senate last night as having allegedly raped a fellow seminarian 50 years  ago.

The naming by independent senator Nick Xenophon  came after the Catholic  Church yesterday rejected the senator’s ultimatum that he would name Monsignor  Dempsey unless he was stood down  from his current post as parish priest in  Brighton, Adelaide.

Monsignor Dempsey, 68, was made an Officer of the Order of Australia  in  recognition of his services as director-general of the navy’s chaplaincy. He has  also served as  vicar-general to the Adelaide archdiocese.

Monsignor Ian Dempsey and the Parish he works in is here.

The Telegraph also covers the sordid news here.

You may also want to read: ‘Catholic Church covered up sexual abuse, says this Archbishop’ here.

An abysmal state of affairs I’m afraid.

UPDATE I:   The Archbishop of Adelaide, Philip Wilson, has released a media statement regarding the above which can be read here.

UPDATE II:  Monsignor Ian Dempsey denies the abuse allegations here.