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Big News: Hollingworth Has To Go

Big News with Dave Crampton

Hollingworth Has To Go

Imagine it. You’ve been working in a job for about eight months. Your previous job was quite demanding, fulfilling, but unrelated to your current one. Yet you are called to give account on national television of something done eleven years ago by one of your former employees whom you had nothing much to do with. You agree to answer questions unrelated to your job description on your response to his actions. At the time you’d just started the job and probably never met the employee.

Now thousands are calling for your resignation from your current position as they say you covered up sexual abuse, even though there is no evidence that you have done anything wrong. But your boss is not going to fire you and you are not resigning. And if you weren’t a high ranking church official during a sex abuse controversy who later took a job of an even higher ranking official in the state, that would have been the end of the matter. But it isn’t the end of the matter for Dr Peter Hollingworth.

The 23rd Australian Governor General, Dr Peter Hollingworth, OA, 1992 Australian of the Year and 1987 Father of the Year, is embroiled in a right royal controversy over child abuse while he was an Anglican Archbishop in Brisbane. The publicity couldn’t have happened at a more inconvenient time for Hollingworth, as he is to meet the Queen this week. They could have met in Wellington as they were both in town at the same time last week – in fact they both went to the same church yesterday.

It’s a funny thing, the old monarchy. As our GG was welcoming the Queen in Wellington, along with our own “queen”, Georgina Beyer, Helen Clark was busy telling reporters in London that we didn’t need a head of state that lives 12,000 miles away. Although she’s right, it’s cheaper than having a president.

On the other hand Aussie Prime Minister John Howard supports the monarchy like the bees knees, while Hollingworth, despite his appointment, has always had republican sympathies. At the present the only thing these two men have in common is that they are conservative Anglican males who are not very good at saying sorry – to which the media and the Aussie public seem to take great delight in.

But this whole sorry saga has been bubbling under since late last year when a Queensland court heard that Dr Hollingworth failed to take action over incidents at an Anglican preparatory school in 1990 involving a master. The master committed suicide the day before the hearing with a suicide note naming 20 other schoolgirls he’d loved. He didn’t name 60 others he’d also loved. A Queensland jury awarded A$835,000 compensation to a 24-year-old woman for the abuse, half of it to be paid by the diocese of Brisbane.

Fast-forward a few months and now everybody who reads a newspaper in Australia, New Zealand and England has heard of Dr Hollingworth. Some are calling for the GG to step aside from his position until the mess is sorted. But his ceremonial position is at Her Majesties pleasure.

And Her Majesty will not be pleased when she meets him. Furthermore, Prime Minister Howard wont sack Hollingworth just because he made some “errors of judgement” in his last job, even if it does taint the office of the Governor General. But he could always ask the Queen what she thinks.

What is difficult about the whole issue is that Hollingworth’s career is being summarised by one issue that is not proven. No mention has been made of his tireless work as a campaigner for the poor, drug addicted and homeless. He has been victimised by the media, when the media, if they want to victimise somebody, should have found out who knew about the abuse at the outset and hassled them. The former Archbishop is not one of these men, but he has been victimised to such an extent that even church leaders are asking him to resign for the sake of the church. And that’s not really fair.

Sure, Hollingworth could have done more to uncover sex abuse during his time as an Archbishop. But his job was an archbishop, not a private detective. The whole messy saga just demonstrates that Church hierarchy is a bit screwed – after all it’s mainly Anglicans and Catholics, the two churches with the strongest hierarchies, and the biggest distinction between clergy and laity, who partake in such iniquities as there appears to be less accountability structure among all the hierarchy.

And so it was interesting that when Hollingworth was appointed last year, concerns were raised whether the appointment would blur distinctions between church and state.

But if it wasn’t for the monarchy, most, including Anglican leaders, would have never known about the extent of the sexual abuse. Distinctions haven’t been blurred, disparities in the church have been highlighted and Hollingworth is the man all the fingers are pointing to, even though he was not the primate of the Anglican Church. As he is the Governor General, his position has become untenable through no real fault of his own.

Hollingworth will have to provide a convincing explanation, resign, or have four-and a half years of hell.

He has to go.

- Dave Crampton is a Wellington-based freelance journalist. He can be contacted at davec@globe.net.nz

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