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Peter Hollingworth

Peter Hollingworth (born April 10, 1935) is a prominent Australian Anglican clergyman and was the Governor-General of Australia, a post he held from 29 June 2001 upon the retirement of Sir William Deane[?]. His full title is the somewhat unwieldy "His Excellency the Right Reverend Dr Peter Hollingworth AC OBE". Following an inquiry which charged he had covered up child sex abuse cases and following an accusation of rape, he resigned from the post on 26 May 2003, and on 28 May the Queen accepted his resignation as Governor-General effective the following day.

Peter Hollingworth was born in Adelaide, South Australia before moving to Melbourne as a boy. After attending state primary schools, his latter secondary education was at the private Scotch College. After completing his secondary education he began work for BHP. Hollingworth apparently often spent his lunch hours in the local Anglican church, and at this point the idea of becoming a priest was first suggested to him.

Conscripted for "National Service" in 1953, Hollingworth began work in the Padre's Office, and decided to become a priest. He attended the University of Melbourne, living at Trinity College, graduating in 1960 with a Bachelor of Arts and a Licentiate of Theology.

Dr. Hollingworth became a deacon, then the priest in charge of St. Mary's, a church in North Melbourne (on the fringes of Melbourne's central business district). In 1964, he joined the Brotherhood of St Laurence[?], an Anglican charity which helps the disadvantaged, ultimately rising to the position of Executive Director in 25 years with the Brotherhood. During this time he was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire[?] in 1976, and an officer of the Order of Australia in 1988 for this work. As well as these secular honours, he was elected Canon of St. Paul's Cathedral in 1985 and consecrated a bishop of the Inner City in 1985. During this time, he completed a Master of Arts in Social Work from Melbourne University, and wrote several books about his work with the poor.

In 1989, he became Archbishop of Brisbane, after winning a tightly-contested election for the position and much lobbying. During the 1990s, the Anglican Church in Queensland, like many other churches around the world at the time, was beset by problems with sexual misconduct (ranging from breaches of the church's own rules to criminal paedophilia). Hollingworth's handling of these issues as the administrator of Queensland's Anglicans would later give rise to much controversy.

In 1992, he was made Australian of the Year[?] for his charity work.

On 22 May 2001, he was awarded the Lambeth Degree of Doctor of Letters from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey[?]. Whilst he did not submit a thesis for this award, it is not regarded as an honorary degree and does indeed confer the title of "Dr".

On 29 June 2001, he became Governor-General. Upon taking the office, he became the Chancellor and Principal Companion of the Order of Australia, the Companion of the Order of Australia being Australia's highest civil honor.

The appointment of a theologian, and specifically Hollingworth, as Governor-General attracted substantial negative comment. Sir William Deane, his predecessor, had been popular with the public, and with political opponents of the Howard government, for his comments on social issues. It was widely believed by Howard and others within his party, as well as supporters of the government in the media and elsewhere, that Deane's relative outspokenness was inappropriate for the office. In any case, Deane's example had left expectations on the role quite high.

There was much negative comment on the choice of a bishop to such an important secular office. Some of the conservative press welcomed his appointment, and were particularly glad to see the back of Deane. However, support from the rest of the press ranged from muted to non-existent. Whilst taking leave from his position, many, both from within and without established religion, argued that Hollingworth could not effectively divorce himself from his religious role and that such a combination of religious and secular authority was inappropriate in Australia, a secular country. Hollingworth's personal qualities were also questioned, for instance in the Canberra Times where he was described as having the reputation of "the vainest man in Australia". His record as archbishop was also questioned, for instance by commentator Christopher Pearson in the Australian Financial Review. There was also disappointment from some that a woman was not appointed to the office.

Controversy over sexual abuse in the Brisbane Diocese

On 17 February 2002, allegations that Hollingworth, as Archbishop of Brisbane, had attempted to cover up several instances of sexual abuse, were aired on a television current affairs program. Most of the allegations were about the handling of a case in a Toowoomba[?] school where a staff member abused at least two boarders. Hetty Johnston[?], leader of an organisation supporting victims of child abuse, was instrumental in bringing the issues to the attention of the media, and was vociferous in criticising Hollingworth and called for his resignation.

The next day, Hollingworth appeared on Australian Story[?], and gave a lengthy interview. In it, he discussed the media criticisms and some of the cases mentioned, expressing his sympathy for the victims of abuse, discussing the restrictions that the legal situation and his responsibilities to the Church organisation placed on his ability to publically sympathise with the victims, and discussing the personal pressures he was under at the time. However, most attention from the interview was directed at comments he made about one case, where a priest had sexually abused a 14-year-old girl:

The great tragedy about this situation is that the genesis of it was 40 years ago and it occurred between a young priest and a teenage girl who was under the age of consent. I believe she was more than 14. And I also understand that many years later in adult life, their relationship resumed and it was partly a pastoral relationship and it was partly something more. My belief is that this was not sex abuse. There was no suggestion of rape or anything like that. Quite the contrary, my information is that it was, rather, the other way around. And I don't want to say any more than that.

This comment further frenzied public and media attacks on the Governor-General. By the 19th, the Melbourne broadsheet The Age explicitly called for Hollingworth's resignation, and talkback radio and opinion polls indicated that a large majority of Australians thought the Governor-General should resign—or be removed. Opposition leader Simon Crean echoed these calls on 21 February, citing the Governor-General's "serious errors of judgement" and referring to what he viewed as the lack of support for the governor-general in the community and the damage that the controversy was causing to the office.

The situation was unprecedented in Australia—the removal of a Governor-General for reasons of personal conduct had not been contemplated in the past. Whilst the Labor opposition had called for the resignation of Sir John Kerr, this was due to his political actions in his role as Governor-General in the constitutional crisis of 1975, rather than his actions previous to the appointment.

Prime Minister John Howard, who in practice has virtually sole discretion on the Governor-General's continued appointment, rejected calls for Hollingworth to be removed or resign. On the same day as Crean called for Hollingworth's resignation, Howard gave a press conference where he stated that he believed that while Dr. Hollingworth may have made "errors of judgement", Howard saw no evidence that Hollingworth had been "soft on child abuse". He further responded that he did not believe that sacking the governor-general on the basis of the current controversy was wise, because of the future risk that a future governor-general may be hounded out of office purely through "unreasonable scrutiny".

Meanwhile, Hollingworth's successor as Archbishop of Brisbane, Dr Phillip Aspinall, instituted a church board of inquiry into the diocese's handling of sexual abuse complaints. The enquiry examined the written records of the Church's actions, as well as seeking sworn statements from Hollingworth and other church officials. To allow the public release and discussion of the final report, the Premier of Queensland, Peter Beattie[?], tabled the report in the Queensland Parliament in May 2003.

The report examined the handling of nine complaints of sexual abuse during Dr. Hollingworth's time as Archbishop. In the majority of cases, the board concluded that the church's actions were appropriate, including Dr. Hollingworth's. Some did not actually involve Hollingworth personally. On the Toowoomba case, the board found that Hollingworth's actions "could not be criticised", as Dr. Hollingworth was entitled to assume on the information that he had available that the Head Master and the School Council were handling the matter properly. The school's actions were however criticised on several grounds.

In some of the cases, though, Dr Hollingworth was criticised for his lack of expression of compassion towards the victims. In one case, where Dr. Hollingworth chose not to apologise on behalf of the church to the victim of abuse (the 14-year-old girl mentioned previously), the board "...considers that there must have been a way in which Dr Hollingworth could have provided some compassionate recognition of the wrong which the Complainant had suffered".

The handling of another complaint, one that had not attracted as much media attention until the report was released, contained much more serious criticism of Hollingworth's actions. In this case, John Elliot, a church worker who later became a priest, had abused a boy in the early 1980s (it was later found that he had abused a number of other boys, but this was not known to the Church). The victim became aware that his abuser had become a priest, and informed his parents, who then informed a Bishop who passed the information on to Dr Hollingworth. Hollingworth then interviewed Elliot, who confessed to the offences. After referring the priest to a psychiatrist, and discussing the matter with two bishops, Dr Hollingworth allowed Elliot to continue in the ministry, under the condition that he avoid situations dealing with children and young people and be supervised by his wife. Hollingworth stated that he did so with the understanding that the sexual abuse was an isolated occurrence. The victim contradicted this, stating that he explicitly told Hollingworth that the abuse "involved repeated criminal acts" and that "nothing he said could possibly have justified a belief that the abuse was one isolated incident".

In this case, the board made very serious criticisms of Hollingworth, stating that he had "apparently reconstructed what he believed he was told, rather than recalled what in fact was said", and that "even if the abuse had been an isolated incident", that "no Bishop acting responsibly could have reached the decision to continue a known paedophile in the ministry". It further described Dr Hollingworth's decision, whilst "made in good faith", as "untenable".

The reaction to the release of the report was another round of denunciation of the Governor-General throughout the media. Whilst some in the media viewed the targetting as a witch hunt whipped up by forces seeking his removal for a variety of reasons, the calls for his resignation grew louder through early May 2003, and support for the Governor-General from senior federal Liberal politicians was clearly waning, with several ministers suggesting that the Governor-General should "follow his own conscience".

Meanwhile, in December 2002, a civil suit was lodged in the Victorian Supreme court by Rosemary Ann Jarmyn seeking compensation from Hollingworth and several church organisations. Jarmyn claimed that she was raped at a church youth camp in Bendigo in the early 1960s by a man she later identified as Hollingworth, from a photograph of him taken around that time in a church newsletter. Jarmyn sought, and obtained, a suppression order on the case, and Hollingworth concurred. Hollingworth did inform the Prime Minister of the allegation at the time, as later confirmed by Howard. Jarmyn committed suicide in April 2003, but the case went on with her family as plaintiffs.

The case became public knowledge in the days after the release of the report, after senior labor federal politician Lindsay Tanner[?] lodged notice of intent to ask a question in Parliament on whether there were any civil cases pending against the Governor-General. Upon learning of this, the Governor-General made a public statement on the matter, vigorously denying that he had ever raped anyone and stating that he had not attended a church camp in Bendigo. Various church colleagues supported Hollingworth, saying that at the time he was very busy at his church in North Melbourne and would have had no reason to visit Bendigo. Initial media reactions to the new allegations were muted considering their gravity, pointing out the troubled history of the complainant and the extensive and specific denials of Dr. Hollingworth and witnesses. On instructions from the Jarmyn family, their solicitors dropped the case on 23 May 2003. In his summing up, Justice Bongiorno observed that there had been no realistic possibility of a finding against Dr Hollingworth, described the family's lawyers as "foolish" and, in an unusual ruling, ordered that while the Jarmyn family should be not liable for costs, the defence was free to sue the Jarmyns' law firm to recover legal costs.

On 11 May 2003, Dr. Hollingworth and John Howard held extended private discussions. Afterwards, Howard announced that Dr Hollingworth would "stand aside" whilst the rape allegations were dealt with, and that no decision would be made on his long-term future until they were dealt with. As per convention, the senior state Governor, the Governor of Tasmania (Sir Guy Green) would act as Administrator (effectively, acting Governor-General) until such time.

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