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Melbourne Diocese rules Dr Hollingworth ‘fit for ministry’

28 April 2023

Its Board board for professional standards upheld seven of the ten allegations of misconduct brought against him


Dr Peter Hollingworth

Dr Peter Hollingworth

MELBOURNE Diocese’s board for professional standards has ruled that the former Archbishop of Brisbane and one-time Governor-General of Australia Dr Peter Hollingworth is “fit for ministry subject to the condition that his ministry be confined to the role office or position in the church that he currently holds”.

After an inquiry that began in February (News, 10 February), the Board has upheld seven of the ten allegations of misconduct brought against Dr Hollingworth.

The finding means that Dr Hollingworth, aged 88, can continue to hold permission to officiate in the diocese, although he will be required to accept a reprimand from the Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr Philip Freier, and to apologise to persons named in some of the upheld allegations.

The scope of his ministry will be limited to: assisting with services in St George’s, Malvern, his parish church; presiding at the eucharist every quarter at the Community of the Holy Name, in Melbourne; presiding monthly at the eucharist in St Paul’s Cathedral, Melbourne; conducting weddings, baptisms, and funerals when invited to do so; and taking part in ceremonies at the cathedral, such as ordinations of priests and consecrations of bishops.

The allegations related to claims that he mishandled sexual-abuse matters when he was Archbishop of Brisbane between 1989 and 2001. An inquiry in 2003 found that he had mishandled matters, which led to his resignation as Governor-General, just two years after taking up the post. He has never been accused of any abuse himself.

The finding is expected to re-ignite controversy, given that there have been calls from survivors and victim-support groups for him to be deposed from Holy Orders.

Dr Hollingworth released a statement, in which he said that he had “repeatedly admitted those mistakes and made multiple apologies”. He continued: “Hardly a day has passed in the past 30 years when I have not reflected on these matters and my failings. I had devoted my life to social justice, pastoral care, and healing, but I had little experience in dealing with the child abuse issues. Like other church leaders, I was unduly influenced by the advice of lawyers and insurance companies.”

He said that he would accept the Board’s requirements, and looked forward to the matters being put to rest.

Dr Freier said that he will “give effect” to the Board’s recommendations, and that the Board was determined that there would be no unacceptable risk of harm to any person if Dr Hollingworth continued in ministry with limited and defined duties.

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