Senator Nick Xenophon
A priest accused by Senator Nick Xenophon in parliament of raping another priest has denied the allegations and said he may seek to make a statement in the Senate to clear his name, reports The Australian.
"I am aware of (Traditional Anglican Communion Archbishop) John Hepworth's unsubstantiated allegations against me through an inquiry instigated by the archbishop," he told press gathered outside his parish yesterday.
"I have made it clear in writing to the inquiry that I categorically deny the allegations, which I note are said to relate to events that occurred some 45 years ago and have nothing at all to do with under-age people."
He said he would consider applying to the president of the Senate to address the allegations levelled against him by South Australian senator Nick Xenophon. "If they are the same privileges as the senator used last night, it could be an avenue whereby I could be able to correct some of the things he said which were inaccurate."
Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson, criticised Senator Xenophon for naming the priest and saying the church had not responded properly.
"We have shown Archbishop Hepworth every courtesy, sensitivity and care in the process," Archbishop Wilson said.
"I am deeply distressed that Senator Xenophon has named the priest in parliament," Archbishop Wilson said. "The damage to the priest's reputation is obvious and severe and - in my opinion - this serves to undermine the presumption of innocence which all of us are entitled to enjoy."
Archbishop Wilson said Monsignor David Cappo had met Archbishop Hepworth on at least eight occasions between the time the issue was first raised in 2007 and February this year.
"On my behalf, Monsignor Cappo urged Archbishop Hepworth, at the end of each meeting, to give his permission to proceed with an investigation into the allegations," Archbishop Wilson said.
"On each occasion Archbishop Hepworth declined, indicating that he was not in a proper emotional state to deal with an investigation.
"He was also informed that if he was alleging any form of abuse, including rape, that this is a criminal allegation and he should go to the police."
Archbishop Hepworth said yesterday he had been encouraged to go to police only twice.
Senator Xenophon was yesterday criticised from all sides of politics for using parliamentary privilege to name the priest.
Defence Minister Stephen Smith said members of parliament needed to tread carefully when airing allegations under privilege.
"And when you name an individual or individuals in the parliament you firstly have to be sure and clear of your ground and you have to have made a considered and deliberate judgment as to why that's necessary," he said.
Liberal senator Simon Birmingham said parliamentary privilege should be used "cautiously, judiciously, sparingly".
Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce said that using parliamentary privilege circumvented rights and liberties.
"If you have got the story wrong, then you've done an incredible injustice to the person," he said.
Senator Xenophon told The Australian he did not regret his actions but said he was baffled by the church's decision not to tell him that the priest was being sent on leave.
"I just want to make it clear that all I was asking for was a proper investigation and if they had told me the priest in question was going on leave it could have changed the course of action."
Separately, the Australian Civil Liberties Association has called for independent senator Nick Xenophon to be hauled before the parliamentary privileges committee for naming the priest in federal parliament, despite the clergyman not being charged with any offences, The Australian reports.
ACLA president Terry O'Gorman told The Australian yesterday Senator Xenophon's naming was "the height of irresponsibility".
"I think he should be referred to (the) committee, who should make a stance on whether he was justified in naming him," Mr O'Gorman said. "With the use of parliamentary privilege comes great responsibility."
Senator Xenophon last night stood by his decision.
The Age reports that Sydney's Cardinal George Pell said in a statement on Tuesday, before the Senate expose´, that more information seems to be needed "to explain further to the public any unusual delays in acting on this complaint and the decision not to stand aside the person who has been accused."
Public confidence in the integrity and proper implementation of the Catholic Church's procedures in dealing with sexual abuse ''is vital in obtaining justice for complainants and all concerned'', Cardinal Pell said.
Referring to Archbishop Hepworth's campaign to have his Traditional Anglican Communion accepted into Catholic ranks, Cardinal Pell said the archbishop's ''position and status are not an issue in the treatment of his complaint''.
Named priest ... denies rape allegations (The Australian)
Peers 'must judge irresponsible Nick Xenophon' (The Australian)
Church tried to help: Archbishop (The Age)
Priest takes a holiday after rape claim story breaks (The Age)
mooks262 on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic