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Hollingworth Issues Third Statement Following New Questions

Following new allegations about a reference given by Dr. Hollingworth when he was Archbishop of Brisbane to Ross McAuley, the Governor-General has issued a third statement.

The statement has been released by the Governor-General’s Official Secretary.

Statement by Dr. Peter Hollingworth.

I have received inquiries about a reference given by Dr Hollingworth for use by Ross McAuley, the former Precentor of Brisbane Cathedral in his pursuit of further employment, specifically as a Roman Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of Tasmania, following the decision of the Cathedral Chapter that operating funds no longer allowed for the full-time position of Precentor.

It is claimed that the reference makes no mention of the two allegations of sexual misconduct made against Ross McAuley covered in the Sunday program.

The facts are as follows:

  • A reference was provided by Dr Hollingworth on 28 June 2000 addressed to Monsignor Philip Green in response to a specific request to Dr Hollingworth when Ross McAuley had decided to seek ordination in the Roman Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Tasmania.
  • This reference provides detailed information about the unsubstantiated allegations of sexual misconduct made against McAuley and provides a full and frank account of McAuley’s strengths and weaknesses, to enable the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Tasmania and his advisers to make a fully informed assessment of McAuley’s suitability for ministry in that Church.
  • The Archbishop of Tasmania decided not to proceed with McAuley’s candidature.
  • Fifteen months earlier, on 19 March 1999, Dr Hollingworth did provide Ross McAuley with a general reference addressed “Dear Bishop or to whomsoever else it may concern” in response to a request from Ross McAuley as he was departing for overseas and when he was seeking a Church of England appointment in England.
  • The reference makes a number of positive points about various aspects of McAuley’s ministry, but does not refer to allegations of sexual misconduct. The two allegations were never substantiated. Dr Hollingworth considered it inappropriate for a general reference of this kind to include mention of unsubstantiated allegations.
  • It is the common practice within the Anglican Communion for bishops considering appointing anyone from outside their own dioceses to follow up general references of the kind given by Dr Hollingworth on this occasion, providing the opportunity for more detailed consideration and assessment of the candidate’s suitability.
  • No employment arose from this reference.

The difference in the approaches adopted in these two references is because one was a general reference expected to be used within the Anglican Communion where follow-up is to be assumed and the other was a specific reference provided to a particular recipient of a different Church.

The Governor-General emphasises that the allegations made against McAuley were not substantiated and there is no suggestion of any criminal offence having been committed.

Dr Hollingworth considers that in the different contexts described, the references were fair, responsible and appropriate.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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