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Australia: accused priest denies Anglican prelate’s allegation

September 14, 2011

Msgr. Ian Dempsey, a former chief chaplain of the Australian Royal Navy and vicar general of the Archdiocese of Adelaide, has denied allegations that he sexually assaulted Archbishop John Hepworth, the onetime Catholic seminarian and priest who is now primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion. Citing parliamentary privilege, Sen. Nick Xenophon named Dempsey on September 13.

“I wish to state that I am aware of John Hepworth's unsubstantiated allegations against me, through an inquiry instigated by the (Catholic) Archbishop of Adelaide,” said Dempsey. “'I've made it clear in writing to the inquiry that I categorically deny the allegations, which I note, are said to have occurred some 45 years ago and have nothing to do with underage people. As the inquiry is ongoing I have nothing further to say at this point apart from denying the allegations.”

Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide, the president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, said that he had not suspended Msgr. Dempsey because the allegations did not involve child sexual abuse. Father Brian Lucas, general secretary of the bishops’ conference, said that the allegations “related to a claim involving two priests in their late 20s some 40 or so years ago,” in the words of the Adelaide Advertiser.

Archbishop Wilson added the claim that Archbishop Hepworth had not given the archdiocese permission to investigate the allegation until February 2011.


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  • Posted by: Pablo71 - Sep. 14, 2011 7:09 PM ET USA

    To explain what 'parliamentary privilege' is, Members of Parliament cannot be sued for defamation (libel/slander) for anything they say in Parliament. If the Senator had repeated the allegation outside the Senate chamber, the accused priest could sue him for defamation. It is a privilege that is only rarely used to make accusations about members of the public. (Accusations about other members of parliament are more common.)