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Australian senate says accused priest has right to respond to lawmaker's abuse charge

Catholic World News - September 23, 2011

Australia’s Senate has ruled that a priest who was identified by a lawmaker as a rapist has the right to respond to the accusation.

Msgr. Ian Dempsey was named by Senator Nick Xenophon as one of three clerics who are accused of molesting Anglican Archbishop John Hepworth while Hepworth was a Catholic seminary student. Xenophon named Msgr. Dempsey in a Senate address, taking advantage of his legislative privilege to make the accusation without facing possible legal charges.

Msgr. Dempsey categorically denies the accusation. “You irreparably smeared me and denigrated my reputation,” he said in an open message to Xenophon.

The Senate Privileges Committee chose not to discipline Xenophon for misusing his senatorial privilege, but said that Msgr. Dempsey should have the right to reply.

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