Disgraced former governor-general Peter Hollingworth has been named in several complaints to the Anglican diocese of Melbourne over his continuing status as a bishop in the church.
The complaints have been made by survivors of abuse at the hands of Anglican clergy and teaching staff in the Brisbane diocese, where Dr Hollingworth served as archbishop in the 1990s.
He was forced to resign as governor-general in 2003 after an inquiry found he allowed paedophile priest John Elliot to continue working until retirement, despite Elliot admitting to Dr Hollingworth that he had sexually abused two boys.
Last year, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found Dr Hollingworth made a “serious error of judgement” in allowing Elliot to continue in the ministry, and that Dr Hollingworth failed to take into account a psychiatrist’s advice that Elliot was an “untreatable” paedophile who posed a risk of re-offending.
Yet just months after Dr Hollingworth gave his evidence to the royal commission in 2016 — including an apology to an abuse victim — his permission to officiate as Bishop was renewed by Australia’s most senior Anglican, Archbishop Philip Freier.
It was the fourth time Dr Freier had renewed Dr Hollingworth’s permission to officiate since 2007.
A spokesman for Dr Hollingworth said the former archbishop had “never committed any offences and tried his best to resolve complaints. Where he came up short he apologised publicly on a number of occasions”.
But abuse survivors are outraged that Dr Hollingworth still holds the status, and authority, of a bishop in the Anglican Church.
“It’s a slap in the face to all the victims,” said ‘Lyndal’, who won a landmark judgement against the Brisbane diocese for the abuse she suffered at the hands of a teacher at the Toowoomba Preparatory School in the 1980s.
“The Anglican Church should be taking a stance to say, ‘No, we need to make an example, to show across the world that we are serious about this’. Clearly, they’re not.”
Dr Hollingworth is not officially employed by the diocese and has no power to make decisions in the church.
His spokesman confirmed that Dr Hollingworth did perform the offices of bishop, but said that his officiating was limited to ceremonies for old friends, and occasional sermons in the cathedral.
A spokesman for Archbishop Freier said approval was given after Dr Hollingworth was cleared for ministry by the now-defunct Directorate of Professional Standards.
Dr Hollingworth has provided written answers to complaints which are being investigated by the church’s professional standards office, Kooyoora Ltd, but has not been interviewed.
But those complaints are not the only complaints relating to Dr Hollingworth’s ongoing status as a bishop in the Anglican Church.
One survivor recently wrote to both Victoria’s Working With Children Check unit and the state’s Commission for Children and Young People, requesting an investigation into how Dr Hollingworth was approved for a Working With Children Card — a prerequisite for all Anglican clergy.
Last month, the commission’s chief executive Brenda Boland responded to the complainant, saying they had raised “very serious concerns about Peter Hollingworth and the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne”.
“I would like to assure you that the commission is treating the allegations you have raised very seriously,” she wrote.
The ABC has confirmed the commission referred the matter to Victoria Police in June.
In a statement, Victoria Police told the ABC no offences in Victoria have been disclosed.
Last month, Victorian Upper House MP Fiona Patten put a similar question to the state’s Police Minister in Parliament on behalf of a constituent, asking: “How can the minister assure him that the Working With Children Check process is protecting his daughters if it is the case that someone with Hollingworth’s history is granted such a certificate?”
Ms Patten said she had spoken to many victims who were angry and traumatised by the fact Dr Hollingworth remained in the church.
“This is creating more harm on people that are already suffering. There is no reason why the diocese should be protecting Hollingworth over the victims,” Ms Patten said.
She said it was clear the church had not learned anything from the royal commission and other high-level probes into abuse.
“If this was any other organisation and one of the staff members had been found to have covered up child abuse that person would be stood down or at the very least asked to retire,” Ms Patten said.
Survivor advocate Chrissie Foster said the Anglican Church was behaving as though the royal commission never happened.
“I just think they don’t get it,” she said.
“Part of getting it is being ashamed of what they’ve done. They’re not ashamed because they have the wrong attitude. The wrong mindset. It’s a disgrace.”