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Australian prosecutors will not pursue abuse complaint by Anglican prelate against Catholic priest

June 06, 2013

Australian prosecutors have found insufficient evidence to bring charges against a priest who was charged with sexual assault by the former leader of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC).

Anglican Archbishop John Hepworth, who led the conservative TAC until he was ousted in an acrimonious policy dispute last year, had caused a sensation in Australia earlier by reporting that he was the victim of sexual assaults in the 1960s, when he was a Catholic seminarian. The Anglican prelate said that 3 Catholic priests had molested him. Archbishop Hepworth said that he was dismayed the Adelaide archdiocese did not take effective action in response to his complaint.

Archbishop Hepworth did not make public the names of the priests who he accused of assault. But an Australian legislator, Nick Xenophon, identified the sole survivor among those accused: Msgr. Ian Dempsey, a former vicar general of the archdiocese. After an independent inquiry, the archdiocese found that Hepworth’s complaints against Msgr. Dempsey were unwarranted. Public prosecutors have now added their conclusion that no charges should be brought.

Msgr. Dempsey welcomed the announcement, saying he had waited for years to have his name cleared. Senator Xenophon, however, was not chastened by the news. “I believe the only apology due here is by the Adelaide archdiocese of the Catholic Church, for the way it abysmally dealt with Archbishop Hepworth’s allegations,” he said. He added that he was not troubled by any damage done to Msgr. Dempsey’s reputation since the priest “is still working, he still has his job with the Church.”

Prior to his very public dispute with the Adelaide archdiocese over the abuse charges, Archbishop Hepworth had been an important figure in negotiations between conservative Anglicans and the Vatican that eventually led to the establishment of Anglican ordinariates within the Catholic Church. Although hundreds of Anglicans have entered the Catholic Church by that route, Hepworth has not done so.


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