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Accused Australian priest maintains innocence; lawmaker under fire for naming him

Catholic World News - September 15, 2011

The Australian priest who was identified in parliament as one of the clerics who molested Anglican Archbishop John Hepworth has heatedly denied the charge.

Msgr. Ian Dempsey--who was named by Senator Nick Xenophon as the only survivor among the three priests who abused Hepworth during his seminary days—insisted that he is completely innocent of the charge. Msgr. Dempsey, who remains in active ministry in the Adelaide archdiocese, said that he might ask for an opportunity to address the Senate, since Xenophon named him in an address before that body. The Australian Civil Liberties Association denounced Xenophon for using his parliamentary privileges to unveil Msgr. Dempsey’s identity. Those privileges, the organization pointed out, are intended to protect lawmakers while they discuss legislative issues. Since the Hepworth allegations have no bearing on legislation, the senator’s invocation of his privilege was “the height of irresponsibility,” the group charged.

In a related development, Msgr. David Cappo, the vicar general of the Adelaide archdiocese, has announced that he will decline an appointment to chair the government’s Mental Health Commission. Msgr. Cappo, who had recently won appointment to the national chairmanship, said that the heavy criticism he has encountered for failing to act promptly on Archbishop Hepworth’s report of sexual abuse would have “the potential to distract from the important work” of the commission. However, he continued to reject “any suggestion that I or the Church handled the complaint by John Hepworth with anything other than proper and due diligence.”

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